Not many young quarterbacks would even have the audacity to imagine making their first career starts under the circumstances surrounding Max Wittek at the Coliseum tonight.
The freshman is replacing Matt Barkley, an injured senior who has claimed most of the career passing records at Southern California. He's facing Notre Dame (11-0), a storied football power with a No. 1 ranking and the nation's most feared defense.
The Irish need just one more win to book a spot in the national title game, and the struggling Trojans (7-4) have lost three of four.
The Irish are just one win away from completing a remarkable run to the BCS title game in coach Brian Kelly's third season.
"You think about it," Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta said. "In the back of your mind, it's there that if you win this game, you're going to play in the national championship. What more motivation do you need? But I think we want to treat it like any other game. Obviously it's a rivalry game, so we're going to be playing fierce and tough. We're just focused on who we're playing against and sticking it to them."
USC's last four opponents have combined for 156 points, and Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is coming off a 346-yard passing performance against Wake ForesT.
But every number in Notre Dame's favor won't matter when the Trojans go after a historic upset in a rivalry series full of unexpected twists.
"It's very exciting," Notre Dame center Braxston Cave said. "This is what guys come to Notre Dame for. We've finally got the program back to where it belongs, and I think guys are really excited about that."
Boilers try to salvage season vs. IU: Purdue can salvage its season, get bowl eligible, beat a big rival and maybe even save its coach's job with one more victory.
The Boilermakers (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) face Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket today.
"This is a great opportunity this weekend," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "We've fought hard and came back and we've played well and we've won and we've gotten ourselves in position to have a winning season and to get into postseason play and maybe play in a pretty good Bowl game."
For Indiana (4-7, 2-5), it's about bragging rights, winning it for the senior class and using the win for a positive note in recruiting.
"It's always easier to continue to develop and work hard when you have positive notes," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "Win or lose, whatever the outcome is (today), we're still building. But it's going to be a lot easier to build with recruiting and build with work outs, it will be a lot easier to build with success, without questions."
Northwestern looks to secure quality bowl: In line for a quality bowl, Northwestern has its ticket out and ready to be punched.
That would appear to be little more than a formality for the Wildcats with a home game against Illinois today, except they know better. They know all about their recent history against the Illini, and it's not good.
"There is no question this is a huge rivalry," coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
And there's no debate, either, that his team has come up short against Illinois the past two years.
Now, Northwestern (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) appears to be in a good spot after beating Michigan State 23-20 and shaking off a brutal overtime loss at Michigan. That's something the Illini (2-9, 0-7) can't say. The free fall that began after a 6-0 start under Ron Zook last season still is going strong under new coach Tim Beckman with eight straight losses overall and 13 in a row in conference play.
The way they've struggled, it's hard to believe Illinois was a Top 25 team fighting for bragging rights in Chicago when these teams met a year ago. Yet, the memory lingers.
Northwestern hasn't forgotten.
The Wildcats wanted to avenge a 21-point beating at Wrigley Field in 2010. Instead, they left Champaign with a 38-35 loss after the Illini wiped out an 18-point deficit and rallied again to win when Nathan Scheelhaase squirmed into the end zone from a half yard with 13 seconds left, capping a wild week and setting off quite a scene after the game.