SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Max Wittek has only thrown nine passes in his college career, but that lack of experience didn't stop the redshirt freshman from telling an ESPN Radio affiliate in Los Angeles "we're going to win this ballgame."
That's probably nothing to get worked up about, seeing as it's just a player expressing confidence in his team to beat its next opponent, which happens to be No. 1 Notre Dame. Wittek didn't say the politically correct thing, instead sharing a common belief: Our team is going to beat your team, and we're confident in that.
Maybe Notre Dame will use that comment as bulletin board material, maybe not. For a defense that's allowing the fewest points per game this season and has only allowed nine touchdowns in 11 games, perhaps the added motivation won't be necessary.
Even without Matt Barkley quarterbacking USC, Notre Dame knows what they're up against. USC's offense is loaded with blue-chip playmakers, headlined by sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee and his 107 receptions, 1605 yards and 14 touchdowns. Fellow wide receiver Robert Woods has 66 catches for 721 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal -- who rushed for 118 yards against Notre Dame in 2011 -- form a solid 1-2 punch in the Trojan backfield.
"We're going to do what we do," coach Brian Kelly said. "At this point, for us to go into one game and say, all right, we're going to do different things to confuse Max, that's really crazy. This guy has watched football all year. He's going to be watching film. He knows our defense. So we're going to do what we do, because that's gotten us to this point."
USC has scored 28 or more points in nine of its 11 games, although turnovers have been an issue. Barkley made the largest contribution to those woes, throwing 15 interceptions to go along with 14 team fumbles, giving USC's offense the fifth-most turnovers among FBS schools.
Woods' production has fallen off in recent weeks, with Barkley choosing to target Lee more. That's not necessarily a knock on Barkley -- although perhaps it has something to do with his high interception total -- but maybe Wittek will distribute the ball a little more.
"There's only one football, so it just seems like he's gotten more of the catches, whether by design or not," Kelly said of Lee. "Either one those guys can beat you by themselves. The numbers just have gone his way this year. But you're talking about two of the best in the country. I don't know that you can really choose. They're both terrific players."
Wittek is a relative unknown, a quarterback without much collegiate film for a defense to work with. Kelly has some experience with him -- Notre Dame recruited him out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., -- but offered an axiom to explain why the Irish won't take USC's offense lightly without Barkley.
"He's on scholarship at USC," Kelly said. "When you get a scholarship to USC, you're one the best quarterbacks in the country."