The Trojans have had a very disappointing year. When the season began the team thought they had and elite QB ready to lead them to a potential PAC-12 title and perhaps even a playoff spot. Six games in and that dream is dead.
Not only has the offense been a weakness rather than a strength, the defense has been a nightmare. That's all but taken them out of contention for a PAC-12 title.
Still, USC have their pride, and a ton of talent. So a matchup with a team like Notre Dame is a way to show that they had the talent to be that elite team this year.
USC are the underdogs heading into this one. The Trojans are 7 point underdogs, and they're given +250 odds to win the game outright. That's an implied 28.6% chance to pull off the upset. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is given -245 odds, or an implied 71% chance to win the game.
Honestly, these odds are pretty good considering this is a Notre Dame home game. Given USC's play this year one would have assumed they'd be favored to lose by multiple scores, but oddsmakers see something that makes them believe this could be a tight game.
USC and Notre Dame have played each other 88 times in their history. USC has won 36 of those games. There was once a time when USC dominated this rivalry.
The Trojans won 8 straight games against Notre Dame from 2002-2009. Since 2010 though, things haven't been the same. USC has gone just 3-7 in the last 10 games these schools have played. Notre Dame has won the last 3 times these teams have played.
So, while USC has shown they can dominate this series, recent history shows that this is a point for Notre Dame.
USC doesn't need this game to go to a bowl game. They need it to show that they are the level of team that everyone thought they were when the season started.
This team had enough talent to compete for a playoff spot when the season started. That team just hasn't shown up enough this year. Now with a game against Notre Dame they have a shot to show that team is still here.
In all honesty, the program needs to have that kind of confidence and momentum right now.