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And in that corner... the USC Trojans

Enough has been said about the recent dominance of the USC Trojans that it doesn’t warrant me talking about it as well. But I read one stat though that was particularly grim.

70% of Notre Dame’s roster has yet to see the Irish score a touchdown against Southern Cal.

Dan Woike has certainly seen plenty of the good times for USC. As a staff writer at USCFootball.com, Dan has watched Pete Carroll and his Trojan troops beat Notre Dame to a pulp, as well as sneak out of South Bend on that fateful Saturday in 2005. Dan was kind enough to give me some time during this busy week for both of us, and give us a little better look at what we can expect this weekend.

Inside the Irish: Why do Pete Carroll and USC own Charlie Weis and the Irish?

Dan Woike: I think Pete Carroll has owned virtually every coach he’s faced. It just so happened that Carroll and Charlie Weiss intersected at a bad time for Notre Dame. USC was amassing so much talent while the Irish were falling behind. After a couple of lopsided wins, it becomes a mindset.

ITI: Carroll is an immensely competitive person. Was there something that Weis did or said that gets Pete especially amped up to play the Irish? Did the 2005 game almost awaken the Trojans and remind them to assert their dominance?

DW: I don’t know if there was a specific instance or anything. I think the 2005 game was a classic, and Carroll knows that. The ending was probably one of the most exciting drives of the past 10 years. Carroll would never say this, but maybe the “decided schematic advantage” talk from Weis’ opening presser caught his eye, but I doubt that has a ton to do with it. He’s competitive, but he doesn’t seem all that vengeful.

ITI: This isn’t the same USC team that we saw last year. Can you talk a little bit about the offensive struggles the Trojans have had this year? Did the performance against Cal lead you to believe good things are coming?

DW: The struggles can be directly tied to the quarterback play. The USC coaches were hesitant to really let Matt Barkley loose early in the season, and that really hampered the team’s ability to make the big play.

I think against Cal, USC and the coaches decided to open things up. You saw Barkley look down the field more, and with Ronald Johnson coming back on Saturday, it’s only going to get better.

ITI: The defense didn’t rebuild it reloaded. Can you talk about the challenges ND’s offense present the Trojan D, and what you think the keys will be in this match up?

DW: This USC defense might not be as physical as in years past, but this group is faster. The biggest challenges Notre Dame will face come from the defensive line. This group is scary good and scary deep. Nick Perry and Everson Griffen are devastating pass rushers, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is just a flat-out star.

Also, the secondary with Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard do a good job limiting big plays, making things tougher on any offense.

ITI: Are you at all scared about this game? Or have Trojan fans just taken for granted Southern Cal’s recent dominance? If there is something that worries you about Saturday’s game, what is it?

DW: I think any time you go on the road with a young quarterback, you should be a little worried. You never know when he’s going to have a two or three interception game. I also think people realize this is a much more gifted Notre Dame offense. I think Golden Tate is a key guy. If he can make a big play, especially on special teams, it could shift the game.

ITI: What’s the perfect recipe for a Trojan win?

DW: Eliminate penalties and win the turnover battle, pretty simple.

ITI: The Irish and the Trojans target a lot of the same players. What does this game mean to recruiting?

DW: Not as much as you’d think. I explored this angle a lot last year. Look at Manti Te’o. USC wanted him bad, beat up on Notre Dame and didn’t get him. I think certain guys are more comfortable playing at USC for a guy like Carroll, and other players are attracted to what Notre Dame has to offer. Still, with mutual targets on the Notre Dame sideline, it never hurts to impress.

Be sure to check out more of Dan’s coverage on the big game this week at USCFootball.com.