10/21/2011 01:44 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2011

USC vs. Notre Dame: 7 Keys To Watch As CFB Underachievers Go To Battle

Notre Dame football welcomes USC in college football's premier rivalry on Saturday. Normally, ranked opponents clash in this contest, but both the Irish and Trojans enter Notre Dame Stadium unranked for only the ninth time in series history and for the first time in consecutive seasons.

While USC has dropped only one game against a powerful Arizona State offense, Notre Dame been defeated twice by two bad opponents in South Florida and an overrated Michigan program. Will the Irish be able to even the records and move into the Top 25?

Both programs have a lot riding on this game. For the Trojans, this is a chance to avenge last year's loss and return to Pac-12 play with positive momentum. For the Irish, this is a chance to prove the program is moving forward while pursuing a two-loss season and a BCS berth.

For both programs, it means a chance to break into the Top 25 by winning the Jeweled Shillelagh.