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Trojans At Irish Has Center Stage

by Mike Mitchell
Updated 10/14/05

USC puts its 27-game winning streak on the line when the Trojans visit a Notre Dame team that's rejuvenated under new head coach Charlie Weis.

Not knowing what Weis would be able to immediately accomplish, the Irish were projected to be 1-4 heading into this game but have flipped that around to a 4-1 start. Conversely, Southern California is right where everyone thought they would be at 5-0. However, USC has either been struggling lately or simply sleep-walking through portions of its games.

The past three weeks, USC has trailed Oregon 13-0 and Arizona State 21-3. Last week, the Trojans were leading bottom-feeder Arizona by a slim 28-21 margin heading into the fourth quarter. We'll find out this week if that has been a bad habit which can be instantaneously broken or a chink in the Trojan armor. In the meantime, their tribulations have caused them to cough up the top spot to Texas in the Congrove Computer Rankings (CCR Top 119).

USC had their way with Ty Willingham's Irish during his three-year stint at the helm, routing Notre Dame by scores of 41-10 (2004), 45-14 (2003) and 44-13 (2002). But this is Charlie Weis' Notre Dame and Fighting Irish faithful are convinced their team will not only compete in the game, but can win it.

The series still tilts in favor of Notre Dame 42-29-5 as they line-up for the 77th meeting. That lopsided difference is owed to a 13-year period from 1983-1995 when the Irish went 12-0-1 against their west coast rivals.

Prior to the current three-game USC winning streak, the Irish took three straight. And the Trojans won the three games before that. If that trend were to continue, Notre Dame will emerge victorious on Saturday. However, the Golden Domers have never beaten USC (0-4) when the Trojans entered the game ranked first in a major poll.

With USC playing outside the conference, UCLA has a chance to catch the Trojans at 3-0 in the PAC-10 standings with a win at Washington State. Three weeks ago, this looked to be a much tougher game on the Bruins schedule than it does now. The Cougars started the season 3-0 but have dropped their first two conference games. Losing 44-33 at Oregon State wasn't so bad, but no one expected their 24-21 loss to Stanford this past weekend in Pullman.

Texas will have to get over the excitement of halting a five-game losing streak to Oklahoma and get focused on Big 12 north leader Colorado. The Buffaloes have been rolling since suffering a non-conference loss at Miami (Fla.). Colorado blanked Oklahoma State 34-0 in Stillwater two weeks ago and then blasted Texas A&M 41-20 in a home game this past weekend.

Texas Tech enters the weekend tied with Oklahoma in the south division and hosts a 4-1 Kansas State team.

If the Red Raiders and Longhorns get past this weekend with their undefeated records intact, they will go head-to-head for the division lead next weekend when Texas Tech heads to Austin.

Florida State, the ACC's Atlantic division leader, heads to Virginia to face a Cavalier team that has lost two straight conference road games. Virginia has lost 9 straight games to the Seminoles since a 33-28 home upset win in 1995. Only twice in that span has this not been a blowout with FSU outscoring the Wahoos by an average margin of 37-12. However, the last time they played in Scott Stadium, the Seminoles won a 19-14 squeaker.

Virginia Tech, the ACC's Coastal division leader, is idle as they get ready for a Thursday night game at Maryland on October 20.

In the Big East, Louisville has been on a war path since a 45-14 loss at South Florida three weeks ago. The Cardinals have outscored their last two opponents - FAU and North Carolina - 130-24. Both of those games, though, were played in the friendly confines of Papa John's Stadium where they have won their three home games by a total of 142 points. This week, they face West Virginia on the road and Louisville has been outscored by a total of 24 points away from home with a 7-point win at Kentucky and that 31-point loss at USF.

The Mountaineers are one of three teams that have not lost a Big East game. South Florida and Connecticut are the other two. A win by WVU this week would knock the 0-1 Cards out of the Big East title picture, at least for now.

South Florida, meanwhile, has a tough road game at Pittsburgh where the Panthers are looking to improve to 2-1 in the conference with a win over the Bulls. USF can become a real player in the conference race with a victory.

Connecticut visits Cincinnati where the Huskies will be heavy favorites to improve to 5-1, 2-0.

The biggest game in the SEC doesn't even involve a first-place team. LSU hosts Florida in a game that each team must win if they are to have a shot at a division title. The Tigers are 2-1 and trailing Alabama (3-0) and Auburn (2-0) in the west division. The Gators are 3-1 and a game behind Georgia (3-0) in the loss column.

If Florida can pull off the upset in Baton Rouge, they will be in position to control their own destiny in the division title chase as their next game is against the Bulldogs in Jacksonville on October 29. An LSU win sets up a big showdown with Auburn next week in a game that will also take place in Baton Rouge.

The Big 10 looks almost nothing like it was expected to. The computer did have Penn State projected to be 5-1 at this stage (they are 6-0). But expected front-runners Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State were all supposed to be undefeated in conference play so far. Instead, they are all at the other end of the standings.

The Nittany Lions are, in fact, the only team that is unbeaten in Big Ten play as they head to Ann Arbor to face Michigan this week. The Wolverines have uncharacteristically already lost two home games this season - to Notre Dame and Minnesota. Those were their first home losses since Iowa did the trick in 2002. In between, Michigan ran off 16 straight home wins.

This is only the second away game for Penn State this season. When they won at Northwestern two weeks ago, it was only their second conference road win in their last eight tries.

Other Conference Games:
ACC:
Clemson at N.C. State (Thursday) - These two are already out of the division title race and fighting for bowl life. The Wolfpack enter the game at 2-2, 1-2. Clemson is 2-3, 1-3 and Tommy Bowden is back on the hot seat.

Wake Forest at Boston College - A win over Wake and BC will be 6-1 for the first time since 1957.

Georgia Tech at Duke - Duke coach Ted Roof is a 1987 Georgia Tech grad. As an interim head coach, he beat his alma mater in 2003 to end Duke's 30-game losing streak to ACC schools. Two weeks later, they beat North Carolina. Since then, the Blue Devils have won just 1 of their last 11 ACC games and have dropped their last four.

Big East:
Rutgers at Syracuse - Under new head coach Greg Robinson, the Orange have only managed to beat Buffalo. Rutgers is a mild disappointment at 3-2 after returning almost everyone from last year's team.

Big 10:
Indiana at Iowa - Our preseason forecast said "Hoosier fans shouldn't get too excited to see their team start the year 4-1 before hitting the tough part of the slate." Iowa has 21 straight home victories.

Michigan State at Ohio State - The Spartans take the field for the first time since their overtime loss to Michigan. Both schools are trying to avoid a second conference loss this early in the league race.

Wisconsin at Minnesota - Just like both games above, each school has one conference loss and can't afford another this early.

Northwestern at Purdue - The Boilermakers have been beaten rather badly in each of their last two home games. They limp into this battle with a woeful record of 2-3 over-all, 0-2 in the conference.

Big 12:
Nebraska at Baylor - I doubt many people expected these teams to both be 4-1 at this point. Even stranger, the computer favors Baylor by a point. The Bears have lost seven straight to the Cornhuskers since their only win in 1956. They were shutout in three of those losses.

Iowa State at Missouri
Kansas vs. Oklahoma (at Kansas City)
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M

CUSA:
UCF at Southern Miss - The Golden Knights have transitioned from a 17-game losing streak to a 3-game winning streak and sit all alone atop the CUSA east division standings with the only unblemished conference record in either division.

UTEP vs. Tulane (at Ruston, La.) (Friday)
UAB at Marshall
Memphis at Houston
East Carolina at SMU
Tulsa at Rice

MAC:
Akron at Miami (Ohio)
Toledo at Ball State
Bowling Green at Buffalo
Ohio at Central Michigan
Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois

Mountain West:
Colorado State at BYU - Colorado State and TCU are the only teams left with unbeaten records in Mountain West conference play. This week, the 2-0 Rams have a league date at BYU while the 4-0 Horned Frogs go out-of-conference to host Army.

UNLV at Air Force
New Mexico at Wyoming
San Diego St. at Utah

PAC-10:
Oregon State at California
Stanford at Arizona
Washington at Oregon

SEC:
Alabama at Mississippi
Georgia at Vanderbilt
Auburn at Arkansas
All of above - Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are all looking to keep their perfect conference records intact. 'Bama and Georgia are undefeated over-all.

Sun Belt:
Troy at Louisiana-Monroe - The only two teams in the conference that have yet to lose a league game go head-to-head for first place.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas State (Thursday)
Middle Tennessee at FAU
North Texas at FIU

WAC:
Louisiana Tech at Nevada - The Bulldogs and Wolf Pack are two of four teams that haven't lost a WAC game yet. Boise State and Fresno State are each 1-0 while La. Tech and Nevada are both 2-0.
New Mexico St. at Hawaii
San Jose St. at Boise State
Utah State at Fresno State

Ho-Hum
Army at TCU - The Black Knights have lost 10 straight.

Miami (Fla.) at Temple - Temple has been outscored 297-63 in it's first six games, an average margin of almost 50-10.

Kent State at Navy - The Midshipmen can climb above .500 to 3-2 if they can get past the Golden Flashes.

Unbeaten Teams: Last week, Nebraska and California lost head-to-head battles with other undefeated teams while Wisconsin lost at Northwestern. That leaves 9 teams with unblemished records.

ACC (2) - Virginia Tech (6-0), Florida State (5-0).
Big 10 (1) - Penn State (6-0).
Big 12 (2) - Texas (5-0), Texas Tech (5-0).
PAC-10 (2) - Southern California (5-0), UCLA (5-0).
SEC - (2) Georgia (5-0), Alabama (5-0).

Winless Teams: Ball State and FAU pocketed their first victories of the season last week, reducing the number of winless teams to just 5.

CUSA (1) - Rice (0-4).
Independents (1) - Army (0-5).
MAC (2) - Buffalo (0-5), Temple (0-6).
WAC (1) - New Mexico St. (0-6)

Pick On Someone Your Own Size: None of the 119 division 1-A teams play a school from a lower division this week. Last week, there were 2 such match-ups and the 1-A schools won both. There have been 50 played this season with the 1-A schools winning 48 (96 percent).

From the beginning of the 2003 season through Saturday, 1-A teams 160-18 in such games, an 89.89 winning percentage.

Streaks: USC owns the nation's longest winning streak at 27. The Trojans also have streaks of 23 straight home wins and 18 consecutive PAC-10 victories. They have won 38 of their last 39 games. USC owns the longest winning streak in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933. USC visits Notre Dame this week.

Texas has won 12 straight games, second-longest streak in the nation behind USC. The Longhorns host Colorado this week.

Virginia Tech has 14 consecutive regular season wins. The Hokies are idle this week. Next up: at Maryland on October 20.

Boise State owns nation-leading streaks of 27 straight home wins and 27 straight conference victories. The Broncos host San Jose St. this week.

Iowa has won 21 straight home games. The Hawkeyes host Indiana this week.

Army and Rice are tied for the nation's longest losing streak at 10. This week, Army visits TCU and Rice hosts Tulsa.

Streaks Over:North Texas saw its string of 26 straight wins over Sun Belt conference opponents come to an end last week with a 13-10 loss to Troy.

Baylor had lost 38 straight conference road games and was 0-37 in Big 12 road games since the start of the conference in 1996. The Bears snapped that streak with a 23-13 win at Iowa State last week.

New Coaches
The 2005 season began with 23 coaching changes.

San Jose State has not beaten a 1-A team yet. BYU and Pittsburgh finally did so last week when the Panthers beat Cincinnati 38-20 and the Cougars downed New Mexico 27-24.

New Mexico State is still looking for its first win over anybody under Hal Mumme.

Here is a list of teams that began the year with a new head coach, how they have fared so far, and who they face this week:

BYU, 2-3 under Bronco Mendenhall, hosts Colorado State.
East Carolina, 2-3 under Skip Holtz, at SMU.
Florida, 5-1 under Urban Meyer, at LSU.
Illinois, 2-4 under Ron Zook, idle.
Indiana, 4-1 under Terry Hoeppner, at Iowa.
LSU, 3-1 under Les Miles, hosts Florida.
Marshall, 2-3 under Mark Snyder, hosts UAB.
Miami, O., 2-3 under Shane Montgomery, hosts Akron.
Mississippi, 2-3 under Ed Orgeron, hosts Alabama.
Nevada-Las Vegas, 2-4 under Mike Sanford, at Air Force.
New Mexico St., 0-6 under Hal Mumme, at Hawaii.
Notre Dame, 4-1 under Charlie Weis, hosts USC.
Ohio, 2-3 under Frank Solich, at Central Michigan.
Okla. St, 3-2 under Mike Gundy, at Texas A&M.
Pittsburgh, 2-4 under Dave Wannstedt, hosts South Florida.
San Jose St., 1-4 under Dick Tomey, at Boise State.
South Carolina, 3-3 under Steve Spurrier, idle.
Stanford, 2-2 under Walt Harris, at Arizona.
Syracuse, 1-4 under Greg Robinson, hosts Rutgers.
Utah, 3-3 under Kyle Whittingham, hosts San Diego St.
Utah State, 2-2 under Brent Guy, at Fresno State.
Washington, 1-4 under Ty Willingham, at Oregon.
Western Mich., 3-3 under Bill Cubit, idle.


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