Of the previous 72 meetings between USC and Notre Dame, at least one team has been ranked in the Associated Press top-25 poll all but nine times.
This season marks the 10th time.
Though the Trojans and Fighting Irish have compiled a combined nine wins this season — against three losses — both finished outside the top-25 poll this week, receiving 107 and 87 votes, respectively, in what would equate to No. 27 and No. 28 in the poll.
It marks the first time in the history of the poll that a 5-1 Trojans team has not been ranked.
Despite USC’s postseason ineligibility and Notre Dame’s two losses, the game will still continue to hold plenty of value for many.
“It means a lot to the school, alumni and people here,” junior quarterback Matt Barkley said following Tuesday’s early morning practice. “To us, it is just another game that we have to win.”
Last week at California, Barkley passed for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday’s contest against the Irish will mark Barkley’s second visit to South Bend, Ind.
As a freshman, Barkley completed 19 of 29 passes against the Fighting Irish, throwing for two touchdowns and one interception.
He did not, however, play in last season’s game because of a high ankle sprain sustained the week before in a 36-7 loss at Oregon State.
“I remember it being electric and not hostile like Autzen [Stadium] or [Ohio State’s] Horseshoe,” Barkley said. “It is a classic stadium that gets me fired up and it probably will for the other guys, too.”
Senior linebacker Chris Galippo noted that familiarity also makes Saturday’s showdown all the more unique.
“Most everybody on this team was recruited by Notre Dame,” Galippo said.
Last November, the Irish defeated the Trojans 20-16 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
But until last season’s meeting, USC had won eight straight games over Notre Dame, dating back to 2002 — Pete Carroll’s second season as the team’s coach.
“So many coaches and players work over the years to start the streak and keep it going,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “When you’re playing a game without your quarterback, you hate to lose a streak when all of your guys aren’t there.”
Kiffin noted that it was difficult to watch game film from last year’s loss to Notre Dame.
“I don’t think it will ever leave,” Kiffin said of the defeat. “This week brings it back because you have to watch it again and learn from the tape.”
Junior tailback Curtis McNeal was USC’s leading rusher against Cal last week with 86 yards on 17 carries. He hopes the team’s strong play carries over this weekend as well.
“It’s a big game,” McNeal said. “They beat us last year, but we’re on a roll and we have to keep it going.”
McNeal is listed as the starter on the depth chart along with senior tailback Marc Tyler, who suffered a dislocated shoulder against Cal. It is unknown whether Tyler will be healthy enough to play against Notre Dame.
On Sunday and Tuesday, Barkley and sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods worked on their accuracy after having noticeable issues with timing against Cal.
Woods believes he was not affected by his performance last week.
“We still got the win by a good margin against Cal,” he said. “I just have to be ready for Notre Dame.”
The Trojans were pleased with their victory against the Bears and hope to repeat their performance this Saturday.
“The offense did a great job in controlling the ball and not turning it over,” Barkley said. “Although we had to settle for some field goals, we are putting points up on the board and that’s what matters to us.”