After two full years of practice in Kiffin's offense, Wittek is eager to show the Trojans won't have to keep it simple as they did two years ago, when backup Mitch Mustain filled in for the injured Barkley in Notre Dame's 20-16 win at the Coliseum.
"They're a great defense, obviously one of the top defenses in the NCAA, but every defense does have their soft spots," Wittek said. "Theirs are obviously limited in being such a great defense, but we are looking forward to taking advantage of some of those soft spots."
Wittek's confidence doesn't seem so outlandish given the talent around him: receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods along with tailbacks Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd. Wittek's teammates are completely familiar with the quarterback who got about 25 percent of the first-team snaps in practice this year — and he's superior to the decorated Barkley in at least one area.
"Max throws much harder. It hurts," Lee said with a laugh. "I have faith in Max. I know he can do it. It's about waiting for your time, and his time is here."
If the Trojans can crack Notre Dame's vaunted defense, the Irish offense will be required to produce a big game against USC's struggling defense. USC's last four opponents have combined for 156 points, and Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is coming off a 346-yard passing performance against Wake Forest — the seventh-biggest in school history, accomplished in just 2½ quarters, no less.
But every number in Notre Dame's favor won't matter when the Trojans go after a historic upset in a rivalry series full of unexpected twists. The Irish understand the perils looming in those 60 minutes before they earn the right to play for another national title.
"It's very exciting," Notre Dame center Braxston Cave said. "This is what guys come to Notre Dame for. We've finally got the program back to where it belongs, and I think guys are really excited about that."
Associated Press writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.
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