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Steve Sarkisian Wants to Regroup the Football Program for Notre Dame

Both teams enter the holiday weekend desperate for one final win.

Captain Hayes Pullard will be playing in the final rivalry game of his USC career.
Captain Hayes Pullard will be playing in the final rivalry game of his USC career.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Sarkisian said it best, the USC Trojans have to refocus and regroup for another big rivalry game. This final test to the regular season may only have bowl game implications, but the Trojans certainly want to defeat the Fighting Irish, ending a two-year losing streak to their sectional rivals from South Bend.

The Trojans have not lost back-to-back games all season and that streak could be in serious doubt this week coming off an emotional, but seemingly non-competitive, loss to the UCLA Bruins.

"We're gaining valuable lessons from these teachable moments," Sarkisian said of the 38-20 loss to UCLA, among other signs of controversy this season.

That's the real question around Howard Jones Field practice field right now, what's taking place on the practice field to ensure a better performance this weekend against Notre Dame. Led by dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson and an assortment of big-play wideouts, the Fighting Irish can really move the football.

In fact, the Fighting Irish have won three of the last four meetings over USC, extending their overall record to 45-34-5 dating back to 1926. If there's one thing Steve Sarkisian must avoid as a first-year head coach, it's losing to both UCLA and Notre Dame this season. It cost interim head coach Ed Orgeron a shot at the full-time gig; defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox could be next.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is looking to become the first coach to begin his ND career with five consecutive 8-win seasons, while Sarkisian is looking to match his win total with Washington last season (8) before the upcoming bowl game. The Fighting Irish wer exposed in the Arizona State game against the pass rush, which could play right into USC's hands if Justin Wilcox and company blitz effectively and bring pressure at the right time of the game.

The one thing we saw from Brett Hundley, among many other things, was the ability to get the ball out quickly and efficiently to big-play wideouts. USC's secondary was flat-out exposed, and that will have to improve against a Notre Dame wideout corp that can make big plays downfield. The return of Josh Shaw should help, but that also means USC will have to commit more resources to the perimeter, which could affect both Sua Cravens and Leon McQuay III from being true run-stuffing options.

Following a fun senior practice on Tuesday, where players got the chance to don their old high schools uniforms, the mood was lightened around the locker room heading into more intensive preparation. Now the USC Trojans have to regain focus for a Notre Dame squad equally desperate to avoid a big losing streak to end the season.

Listen to head coach Steve Sarkisian's thoughts on managing the expectations of a disappointing year, overcoming the rigors of injuries, suspensions and heartbreaking losses, along with an assessment of the many younger contributors on this team.