FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame is a victory away from playing for the national championship.
But the No. 1 Irish (11-0) must first start rebalancing their rivalry against USC (7-4) when the teams meet Saturday in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
?It?s not a great rivalry right now,? coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. ?We haven?t won enough games. They?ve had the upper hand on this. We need to make this a rivalry, and that is we need to win some more football games against a great opponent in USC.?
The Trojans lost 15 of 19 games to the Irish from 1983 to 2001, but Notre Dame has one victory over USC in the last 10 years.
The Irish?s last victory came in Kelly?s first season when they defeated the Trojans 20-16 to close the 2010 regular season. USC did vacate its 2005 win over Notre Dame after being hit by NCAA sanctions.
?To me, a rivalry is it?s got to go both ways,? Kelly said. ?It hasn?t gone both ways. We?ve got one win out of 10. That to me is getting our butt kicked. We got to win some games.
?Our guys know that. I don?t have to tell them that. They?ve been around. They were here last year when we got beat. We want to make this a rivalry.?
The 31-17 loss to USC last season snapped a four-game winning streak for Notre Dame, and the first night game in Notre Dame Stadium since 1991 was a turning point for the Irish.
?That game, in particular, was certainly one where it required all of our players to really examine how they are going to be consistent winners,? Kelly said.
?They have obviously done an incredible job since that game (winning 15 of their last 17 games).
?It was a great learning experience for everybody, even myself. ? Everybody on this football team learned a lot about that game.?
This year, Notre Dame will be trying to learn as much as it can about USC quarterback Max Wittek leading up to Saturday.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman will make his first start for the Trojans because USC star quarterback Matt Barkley injured his shoulder in last weekend?s loss to UCLA.
Wittek has played in only six games and attempted nine passes. He has completed eight passes for 95 yards with a touchdown and went 3 for 3 for 40 yards when he replaced Barkley against the Bruins.
Even though Wittek doesn?t have the experience of Barkley, who entered the season as a Heisman Trophy favorite, Kelly said USC?s first-time starter has the pedigree and tools to be dangerous.
?When you get a scholarship to USC, you?re one of the best quarterbacks in the country,? Kelly said. ?He?s a big, strong, physical kid. He?s got a live arm.
?He certainly fits into their offensive scheme of things. He?s a perfect fit for what they do.?