Notre Dame looks to solidify BCS berth at USC

Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002

Notre Dame-USC is important again.

For the first time since 1989, both teams enter the game ranked in the AP's top 10. And both are playing for berths in Bowl Championship Series games that carry payouts of as much as $16.5 million per team.

The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish (10-1) need a win to all but clinch a BCS spot, probably the Orange or Sugar Bowl. But even a loss might not keep them out as long as they remain eligible with a top 12 finish in the final BCS standings Dec. 8.

The sixth-ranked Trojans (9-2) can win the Pac-10 title and earn a Rose Bowl berth if UCLA beats Washington State on Dec. 7. A victory over Notre Dame does not guarantee USC an at-large spot if the Cougars win the Pac-10.

USC coach Pete Carroll is more concerned with winning than wondering about BCS games.

''That's just the system, and I can't do anything about it,'' Carroll said. ''That's someone else's job -- to fix that thing if it's not right.''

Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham won't get caught up in speculation, either.

''We have to take care of what we can take care of,'' Willingham said. ''We have one regular-season game remaining against a team that is clearly thought to be one of the best and hottest teams in the country.''

The Irish are coming off their best offensive game of the season, albeit against lowly Rutgers. Carlyle Holiday threw for 270 yards and tied a school record with four touchdown passes in the 42-0 win.

USC enters the home game with a chance to close the season with wins over UCLA and Notre Dame for the first time since 1981. With Carson Palmer passing for 254 yards and four TDs last week, the Trojans routed crosstown rival UCLA 52-21 for their sixth straight win. Palmer is the Pac-10's career leading passer with 11,090 yards.

During the streak, USC has averaged 41.6 points while allowing 22.2. Notre Dame has won the teams' last three meetings, including a 27-16 victory last year.

The picks: No. 1 Miami (minus 20) at Syracuse

'Canes make it 33 in a row ... MIAMI, 42-14.

No. 3 Oklahoma (minus 14 1/2) at Oklahoma State

Sooners won't get caught napping vs. Cowboys this year ... OKLAHOMA, 31-14.

Georgia Tech (plus 9) at No. 5 Georgia

'Dawgs have their day ... GEORGIA, 24-17.

No. 7 Notre Dame (plus 11) at No. 6 USC

Irish defense can't handle Trojans QB Palmer ... USC, 31-21.

No. 10 Texas (minus 13 1/2) at Texas A&M (Friday)

Could this be R.C. Slocum's final game as Aggies' coach? ... TEXAS, 35-24.

No. 13 Colorado (minus 1 1/2) at Nebraska (Friday)

'Huskers out to avenge last year's 62-36 embarrassment ... NEBRASKA, 33-27.

No. 14 Alabama (minus 13) at Hawaii

'Bama's bowl game ... ALABAMA, 42-27.

No. 15 Florida (plus 4) at No. 23 Florida State

'Noles have QB woes ... FLORIDA, 31-24.

UNLV (plus 17) at No. 16 Colorado State

Rams looking for school record-tying 11th win ... COLORADO STATE, 38-18.

No. 24 West Virginia (plus 2 1/2) at No. 17 Pittsburgh

Backyard Brawl for second-place in Big East ... PITTSBURGH, 26-20.

No. 18 LSU (plus 5) at Arkansas (Friday)

Winner plays for SEC title against Georgia ... ARKANSAS, 24-21.

Virginia (plus 7) at No. 22 Virginia Tech

Hokies facing fourth straight loss, all vs. unranked teams ... VIRGINIA, 27-24.

Wake Forest (plus 13 1/2) at No. 25 Maryland

Terps on course for second straight 10-win season ... MARYLAND, 35-20.

Last week: 9-6 (straight); 9-6 (vs. points)

Season: 182-64 (straight); 125-110 (vs. points)

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