Brian Kelly on USC: This is our rivalry game

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Brian Kelly left no doubt Tuesday. This week's matchup is the one that matters most to the Irish football program.

"I think our players will be the first ones to admit that this is our rivalry game," Kelly said. "This is our game that we look forward to against USC. It's one that it's on our calendar as -- I don't want to say a red letter game, but one that we look forward to. It's such a great matchup, great tradition, great history. It's part of the history of Notre Dame football that they really recognize as that one singular game."

Kelly said before last year's game he didn't feel it was much of a rivalry because the Irish hadn't won enough in the series. Of course, the Irish won last year's meeting in Los Angeles to send them to the BCS National Championship game.

But the Irish have not defeated USC at home since 2001. Kelly admits he wasn't even aware of that statistic.

Among those losses was two years ago in the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium in two decades. USC came away with the win and turmoil spun amongst the Irish ranks. That was the famous "my guys" quote from Brian Kelly. The Irish got their act together, got on the same page and have been 20-3 in the regular season since that loss to the Trojans.

"Every family's going to have good days and bad days--that might have been one of our bad days," Kelly explains. "But we kept it in -- we talked about it. We aired out our differences. We took accountability for where mistakes were made, and we moved on from it. We didn't relive it. We moved from it. And so I think that's probably the point that, as you move forward, you learn from past experiences, and you build off of those past experiences."

Like two years ago, this will be a huge recruiting weekend for Notre Dame. Kelly says the message is clear for his players on how to handle that end of the distractions.

"The atmosphere, the game, the people around will take care of the environment," Kelly said.

"And then just win the damn game. Win the game. That's what you need to do. So be cordial. If you can say hi to a recruit, if you can shake their hands, make sure you do a good job. High touch, customer service, let's do all those things and do a great job with it, show them a great time, be as gracious as we can with our time.
But they understand. They're football players. They want their coaches. They want the coaches to be focused on the game and win the game. That's the best way I could put it to our coaches. We met with them the other day about the weekend. Win the game."

The Irish are 4-2 coming off a week off after defeating Arizona State in Dallas.

The Trojans meanwhile fired their head coach Lane Kiffin after a loss to Arizona State. Last Thursday, they defeated Arizona in the first game under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Kelly doesn't feel he has to worry about a different system being in place under new leadership.

"His personality is coming out in this football team, but he knows all of his players," Kelly said. "There's an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator for a reason. They'll be some slight variations, and we'll have to be prepared for that. They're going to be who they are six, seven weeks into the season."

Notre Dame and USC is a 7:30 kickoff Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

Coverage on WNDU begins at 5pm Saturday with the NBC Sports Special: Onward Notre Dame. Then its NewsCenter 16 at 6 live from the Stadium. Countdown to Kickoff takes over at 6:30 with the Irish and Trojans to follow.

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