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Brian Kelly describes the history of animosity between USC and Notre Dame

| Friday, October 11, 2019

Some Notre Dame fans have trouble discerning who their team’s biggest rival is. Brian Kelly is not one of those people.

“There are other teams that we have great respect for, whether it’s Navy or Stanford and certainly Michigan, but I believe this is that game,” Kelly said. “Talking to our team about it, it’s about much more than a traveling trophy. To me, it’s about being aware. I don’t think it’s overplaying anything if you’re aware of the surroundings of this football game.”

With the long-standing tradition underlying the game, Kelly knows he and his guys will have to bring it all to the field against the Trojans in Notre Dame Stadium come Saturday night.

“They’ll be a great challenge. Anytime you have the kind of playmakers they have, especially on the offensive side of the ball, you give yourself a chance because on any given night when you have that kind of ability to make big plays, you have the chance to put points on the board,” he said.

USC is also coming off a bye week, but Kelly emphasized that his team’s game last week was an important opportunity to work out the kinks and prepare more fully for their rivalry matchup this week. The Irish head coach stressed how well his team prepared, noting Notre Dame’s poise on both sides of the ball against Bowling Green.

“We could’ve played a little bit better defensively … but having said that, the preparation was outstanding, and that’s what I was most pleased about,” he said. “They were professional and they were mature and to me, that was more than the performance, because we know when the stakes are higher if they prepare that way and the competition is better, they’re going to play at a higher level.”

He hopes his team can carry that maturity forward into this week’s matchup, but he noted that doing so is no easy task.

“I think it’s a challenge each week,” Kelly said. “There are so many distractions today for 18- to 21-year-olds. To get them where you need them to be requires the whole week. It doesn’t happen on Monday. It doesn’t happen the Saturday before you take the field. It’s constantly working on the mental preparation every day.”

Kelly and his staff have used the past week to foster that preparation in practice, building an environment that challenges athletes in order to ensure that they’re as prepared as possible come kickoff.

“I’ve been impressed with their defense. I think they’ve done a really nice job of balancing it out — playing some man, playing some cover-two. They do they do a really good job,” he said. “Offensively, that’s a very, very talented group.”

With a Trojan offense that is centralized in the passing game, Kelly hopes his elite defense can keep a lid on the productivity of receivers down the line.

“[The Trojans have] two excellent backs, the offensive line has been really consistent,” he said. “It’s a really good football team on the offensive side of the ball and extremely dangerous. We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us, there’s no question. Limit the big plays. They’re going to have some success; the offense is set up to have some success moving the ball, but we’ve got to keep the ball in front of us and limit those big plays.”

Though USC comes into South Bend unranked, Kelly emphasized that the Trojans cannot be underestimated.

“It’s a dangerous football team,” he said.

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