An ankle injury has Matt Barkley’s status in doubt for Saturday night.
When beating Army is considered a big deal, then you know it’s been a disappointing season for Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish did become bowl eligible at least following their 27-3 win against the Black Knights, covering as 8 ½-point NCAAF spread favorites, in the first football game played at the new Yankee Stadium this past Saturday. The combined 30 points went ‘under’ the 50-point total.
Now the Irish, 6-5, try to keep the momentum of a two-game winning streak in a matchup with Southern Cal in Los Angeles on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT on ABC.
The Trojans are enduring a tough year, too, being ineligible for a bowl this season and next following NCAA sanctions.
USC was hoping for a 10-win season to lessen the sting of those sanctions, but is 7-4 following a 36-7 loss at Oregon State. The Trojans fell as three-point road favorites. The combined 43 points went ‘under’ the 58 ½-point total. USC hasn’t won in the state of Oregon since 2005.
“We had no energy, we had no rhythm,” Southern Cal tailback Marc Tyler said about the loss in which USC fell behind 20-0 and finished with just 255 yards in the game.
Tyler, the Trojans’ leading rusher with 820 yards and 10 touchdowns, aggravated an ankle sprain. The Trojans also lost their star sophomore quarterback, Matt Barkley. He left right before halftime with a high left ankle sprain.
College football oddsmakers are waiting on Barkley’s status before putting up a betting line. Barkley has completed 63 percent of his passes, while throwing for 2,593 yards and 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Senior Mitch Mustain is Barkley’s backup. He completed eight of 17 passes for 60 yards filling in against the Beavers. He would make his first start for USC if Barkley can’t go. Mustain started eight games for Arkansas back in 2006. Walk-on John Manoogian would be the Trojans’ No. 2 quarterback if Barkley isn’t available.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said X-rays on Barkley’s left ankle were negative and he was hopeful Barkley could play.
C.J. Gable may get most of USC’s carries if Tyler can’t play and prized freshman Dillon Baxter is held out again. Baxter didn’t make the trip to Oregon State after what Kiffin characterized as an inadvertent contact with an agent. Gable rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries and scored the Trojans’ lone touchdown against Oregon State.
Notre Dame is banged-up, too. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees has started the last two games – victories against Army and 28-3 versus Utah as five-point home ‘dogs – replacing injured Dayne Crist.
The Irish also are without star tight end Kyle Rudolph, leading rusher Armando Allen and defensive tackle Ian Williams.
Rees hit on 13 of 20 throws versus Army for 213 yards and one touchdown and one interception, which occurred on the first possession of the game. Rees has one of the best targets in the country in Michael Floyd, who has nine touchdowns and 830 receiving yards.
Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown during the past 11 quarters.
The ‘under’ has cashed in six of Notre Dame’s last eight games. The ‘over’ has cashed in six of USC’s last eight games.
The Irish, however, don’t have a good history when playing at Southern Cal. The Trojans have won the last eight times against Notre Dame, covering six of the eight. USC won 34-27 at Notre Dame last year as 10-pont favorites. The combined 61 points went ‘over’ the 50 ½-point total.
USC rolled past Notre Dame, 38-3, at home two years ago as 33-point favorites. The Trojans beat Notre Dame, 44-24, at home in 2006, 41-10 at home in 2004 and 44-13 at home in 2002. Those victories were achieved under Pete Carroll.
Now the coaching matchup is Brian Kelly versus Kiffin.