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Game Day Notes: Notre Dame

All eyes will be on Mitch Mustain as he makes his first start for USC today. As he completes his "career" at USC many of hope he performs in the way that we saw him as a freshman at Arkansas.

That was a long time ago...

Mustain started eight games at Arkansas in 2006 before transferring to USC. He redshirted while John David Booty started in 2007, sat behind Mark Sanchez in 2008 and backed up Matt Barkley in 2009 and this season.

Mustain, 22, acknowledged that he was frustrated at times.

"I don't know what you'd be doing if you weren't," he said. "I came here to play, came here to get that shot, but that's part of it."

Mustain has had time to mature and season his game even if he barely did it under fire.

Mustain has also learned patience.

No one really knows what was in Pete Carroll's head when he stated Matt Barkley over Mitch Mustain last season. I could see where he didn't beat out John David Booty in his first year of eligibility, he was still learning the playbook. You could probably use the same reason the following season when Mark Sanchez beat him out but I was one of those that thought the alleged competition in spring ball that year was a sham.

But Mustain has held firm. I am not going to say that his patience has finally paid off but he is going to get his chance show us what he's got tonight.

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Notre Dame is going to start true freshman Tommy Rees tonight. Rees has done well in last two starts but he was in the friendly confines of SOuth Bend and in Yankee Stadium which is pretty Much a home game for the Irish.

Rees has some ties to the L.A. area...

Taking over for injured starter Dayne Crist, he made his first start at home in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Then came a neutral site matchup at Yankee Stadium against Army.

Now, Rees — who lived in California as a boy when his father, Bill, served as a UCLA assistant and recruiting coordinator — gets the Coliseum.

Lane Kiffin has high praise for Rees and tried to recruit him to Tennessee so he must be talented. But beating an overrated Utah at home and an over matched Army in a virtual home game in NYC may be something to cut your teeth on but it isn't something that makes a career.

When it comes to USC vs. Notre Dame its a whole new ballgame...

As I posted in the fanshot below, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry still matters to each program. It may not be a big deal nationally right now but it still can turn into knockdown, drag out fight.

Both programs are in transition.

Both programs are also under a bit of a cloud, USC because of the NCAA. Notre Dame because of the death of student manger Declan Sullivan and the in limbo investigation of an alleged sexual assault of a female student and her subsequent suicide by a still unnamed ND football player. I am not really interested in commenting on the ND issues but some out in the CFB landscape think there is a bit callousness in the way ND has handled these incidents hence the cloud hanging over them.

Regardless of all that both teams plan to beat the heck out each other tonight...

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I am going to be interested in how USC's defense handles the Notre Dame offense.

Many Irish fans see the hiring of Brian Kelly as a bit of a second coming. Kelly did some nice things at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Prior to this season at ND, Kelly is something like 20-6 against BCS competition, but Kelly also feasted on many cupcakes at his previous two jobs. His teams are 0-2 in BCS bowls, even though he didn't coach UC when Florida blew them out. Gimmicky passing offenses are far easier to solve over time when there's little/no emphasis on the rush game.

Consider that in his 3 years at Cincy, Kelly's rushing offenses have ranked #62, # 95 and #69. Florida showed what happens to that offense when you slow down/stop their passing game. At Central Michigan, his rush offenses ranked #46, #64 and #40, even though the team he took over finished with a #22 ranked rush game the year before his arrival.

Even though he improved UC's scoring offense in his 3 years there, Kelly really failed to upgrade or emphasize the run game. Will that model succeed against higher level opponents and defenses? I don't know, that is hard to tell right now as ND hasn't exactly played a lot of tough teams on the schedule this season.

His defenses haven't been all that stellar, either, other than the one he inherited his first year.

Kelly may well lead ND out of the wilderness but I am going to take a wait and see approach. I noted earlier in the year that Kelly looks like the real deal in his changing of the attitude on the team, we'll see if he can change the results on the field.

The 'SC defense has been suspect all season. But we have seen marked improvement over the past couple of weeks...even in the embarrassing loss to Oregon St. We had depth issues to start the season but the problem now is of course injuries. particularly in the secondary.

Were are thin in the back.

Kelly's gimmicky, pass happy offense will be a test for USC. The soft zone and open middle of the field has bane of this defenses existence this season.

ND has issues on the defense of their own so this will either be a high scoring affair with both offenses teeing off or a really boring game because of all the rebuilding/injury issues that both teams are facing.

Tonight's game is a big test for both teams. One looks to get back on top, while the other is struggling to not fall into irrelevance...