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    National college football

    Notre Dame the favorite against USC

    The Jeweled Shillelagh has been spending an awful lot of time in Hollywood over the past decade.

    Southern California has won nine of its last 10 meetings with Notre Dame in one of college football’s best intersectional rivalries. The Trojans won a record eight straight over the Irish before a narrow loss in 2009, falling one dropped touchdown pass short of a perfect 10-year stretch with the bejeweled trophy.

    USC’s dominance is one reason many of the current players don’t have a full grasp of more than 85 years of history between the schools. The Trojans have been on top for most of their youths, winning in everything from blowouts to the famed ‘‘Bush Push’’ game.


    ‘‘It’s not a great rivalry right now,’’ Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘We haven’t won enough games. They've had the upper hand on this. We need to make this a rivalry.’’

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    The top-ranked Irish have that chance Saturday at the Coliseum. Notre Dame (11-0) needs a win to advance to the BCS title game, while the Trojans (7-4) have been reduced to spoilers after starting the year at No. 1.

    That’s a change from the rivalry’s recent history dominated by the Trojans, whose incredibly successful run under coach Pete Carroll has been dampened by NCAA sanctions while Kelly revitalized the inconsistent Irish. The USC-Notre Dame rivalry carries more weight for alumni and former players than the current stars in uniform.

    ‘‘We try to work on that, [but] I don’t think that’s natural to them,’’ USC coach Lane Kiffin said. ‘‘We’re dealing with 17-21-year-old kids, and for whatever reason, they don’t come in here understanding that, so we work on that.’’

    In fact, Kiffin welcomes Notre Dame’s success, believing it’s the only way to make his players understand what’s special about the matchup.


    ‘‘That will naturally change it,’’ Kiffin said. ‘‘I'm sure as these kids grew up with the whatever it was, eight straight [wins for USC], I'm sure they weren’t watching the same type of games that 20 years ago, kids were watching. That would definitely change it, but it’s our part to make sure we’re up there, too.’’

    Kelly hopes the Irish start making their own memories Saturday.

    ‘‘We need to win some more football games against a great opponent in USC,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘Our guys know that. I don’t have to tell them that. They've been around. They were here last year when we got beat. We want to make this a rivalry. We’re going to have to play great football against a really good football team.’’

    .   .   .

    The Alabama-Auburn rivalry has a storied history, Hatfield vs. McCoy hatred, and games and performances that inhabit the state’s psyche for decades. What the Iron Bowl hasn’t been filled with is big upsets. The Tigers visit Bryant-Denny Stadium and the second-ranked Crimson Tide Saturday as 33-point underdogs hoping to change that. The winner three years running has won the national title and Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) hopes to make it four. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have steadily maintained their position as one of college football’s powers. The Tigers (3-8, 0-7) have fallen far and fast since Cam Newton and the national title-winning team of two years ago engineered a 24-point comeback that was the largest in Iron Bowl history. Now, Auburn is gunning for a huge upset that would make this season not quite so bad, after all . . . Fifth-ranked Oregon (10-1, 7-1) needs a win over No. 16 Oregon State (8-2, 6-2) in Corvallis on Saturday for a shot at its fourth straight Pac-12 title. The Ducks also need No. 11 Stanford (9-2, 7-1) to lose to southern division winner UCLA in Los Angeles. Oregon is again the favorite going into the Civil War, but Oregon State is likely to pose more of a challenge than it has in the past two seasons, when the Beavers couldn’t muster enough wins for bowl eligibility . . . Florida State would like nothing better than to win some respect at the hands of archrival Florida. While both teams have one loss, the Gators are No. 6, and the Seminoles are No. 10. The difference, apparently, is the teams they've played. The Gators, whose lone loss is to No. 3 Georgia, will be hunting for their third win this season over a top-10 team. Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC) defeated LSU and Texas A&M and also has three conference road wins. Florida State (10-1, 7-1 ACC) has a marquee win over 12th-ranked Clemson while suffering its lone loss on the road at North Carolina State — which has lost five games and surrendered 62 points last week at Clemson.