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USC Football: Dropkick Murphys Sparks Fighting Irish Fever

It may just be the second game of the Ed Orgeron era, but a huge seed for future success could be laid by the working performed on the practice field.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Players took the practice field with high spirits, a serene sense of focus and plenty of jovial tunes ladened in the hallows of Howard Jones during the closing days before departing to South Bend for the 85th meeting for these foes.

After about an hour or so of practice, USC kicked off run period to the tune of Dropkick Murphy's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," firing up the players, and in the process setting the tempo for what should be a rather physical tilt.

"This is a big game for everybody, but for us I don' t want to make it bigger than life I want to make it so we can go out and perform," said Orgeron, the coach with plenty of memories battling the Irish, who also shared some unique lessons on this intersectional rivalry based on conversations with coach John Robinson.

Much like the living legend, if USC can defeat the Fighting Irish Saturday, Orgeron would join John Robinson and Paul Hackett as the only new Trojans coaches to guide USC to victory in their first games against Notre Dame.

"They understand the magnitude, and I think they are gonna be jacked up to play," Orgeron says, noting that for many of his older players, they understand what it means to strap up for a rivalry tilt with Notre Dame. "We set out, this is game two of our season together. So I didn't have to say much."

From that point forward, the intensity of practice drastically picked up in terms of speed and precision. Whether it was a direct intervention or the recognizably loud words of encouragement coming from their interim head coach, the Trojans showcased an increased sense of purpose and dedication on each subsequent drill.

This coming from a squad that continues to battle a minor slew of injuries, something Coach Orgeron said continues to improve at practice, adding "it's early in the week so by Saturday I expect most of our guys to play."

In terms of notable players on the injury list, Orgeron announced that S Dion Bailey, TE Xavier Grimble, WR Victor Blackwell and OG Jordan Simmons are probable.

Starting running back Tre Madden joins the ranks of WR Marqise Lee and OLB Morgan Breslin as players who did not participate in practice and remain questionable for Saturday's South Bend tilt.

The under-manned but highly spirited squad sets their sights on the Irish offense, which is guided by senior QB Tommy Rees, who ranks in the school's career TD passes, completions and passing yards lists. George Atkinson III leads a running back corp that is considered by Coach Orgeron to be the most physical the Trojans have faced.

Which bears significant recognition given previous match ups with powerful running backs Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) and Andre Williams (Boston College) in their own respective rights, earlier this season.

Ex-Trojan Amir Carlisle is also another player to watch on this Notre Dame offense, while WR TJ Jones, who is sixth on ND's career receptions chart, and TE Troy Niklas (14 rec. 250 yards) are the top pass catchers at the Irish's disposal.

The defense meanwhile, which ranks 23rd nationally against the rush is led by ILB Carlo Calabrese, 2012 All-American first team along with the stout duo of DL Stephon Tuitt and DL Louis Nix III.

On the injury note, Notre Dame did lose co-tackle leader ILB Jarrett Grace to a broken leg during a three-point victory over Arizona State.

In the midst of a daunting task preparing for their first road trip under Orgeron's crew, the fun-loving Trojans want to keep the script much the same. "Were gonna have fun, we are gonna keep it light. One heartbeat, one team," Orgeron says.