SOUTH BEND -- Prior to the season, USC was the top-ranked team in the country. At Notre Dame, outside expectations weren't exactly high for a program coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons.
11 weeks into the season, Notre Dame is the No. 1 team in the country with an 11-0 record. USC is 7-4 and unranked.
"That's why they play the games," ND coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "There's so many factors that go into this. We know the unexpected is always out there."
What's out there this week for the Irish is USC, who will host ND Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Trojans will be without star quarterback Matt Barkley, who was injured in last week's loss to UCLA. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek will start in his place, and there isn't a lot of film on Wittek, who has completed 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown this season.
"But he's on scholarship at USC," Kelly said. "When you get a scholarship to USC, you're one of the best quarterbacks in the country."
Just because ND is facing a first-time starter at QB, however, doesn't mean the Irish will change up their defense to confuse him.
"We're going to do what we do because that's gotten us to this point," Kelly said. "So no big changes on our end."
One factor that could help Wittek is the fact that he has two superstars to throw to in wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
"It's the best in the country, in our opinion," Kelly said of the USC receiving corps.
The Irish offense played its best game of the season in last Saturday's 38-0 win over Wake Forest. Quarterback Everett Golson threw for a career-high 346 yards as the offense amassed 584 yards.
"We talked about getting better in November as an offense," Kelly said.
With the top-ranked team losing the last two weeks, Kelly was asked about handling the top spot.
"USC is going to play their very best," Kelly said. "We get that every week. We get the absolute best from our opponent each and every week."
Saturday night's game will be the 84th in the series. Notre Dame leads 45-35-5 overall with SC owning a 21-18-4 advantage in Los Angeles.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. (Eastern).