Matt Barkley Out Equals Notre Dame Rout? Enter Max Wittek

By Tom O'Toole

Just when you thought it was safe for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to travel to Southern California to take on the wounded Trojans, out pops “Mad” Max Wittek.

For the uninitiated, Wittek is the redshirt freshman, backup quarterback to beleaguered Southern California star Matt Barkley, who was named the starter for Saturday’s game against the Irish in lieu of Barkley’s shoulder injury.

Until yesterday, it appeared everything was going the Irish’s way regarding this rivalry, not only this week but all season. Whereas the Trojans started the season as number one with Barkley the odds-on Heisman favorite, Notre Dame came into this year unranked and without a Heisman candidate.

But those roles have been reversed, with the Irish now entering the Coliseum ranked number one with Manti Te’o a popular Heisman pick, and USC now unranked with Barkley’s Heisman hopes crushed by too many sacks and interceptions.

But just when you are about to count the Trojans down and out, here comes that cocky kid Wittek. Although he is the author of only nine passes this season, he strides into his first start predicting victory.

“We haven’t got the full game plan yet, but from what I can tell, we’re going to play our offense, whatever coach [Lane] Kiffin feels comfortable giving me,” says Wittek. “I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play within myself, within the system, and we’re going to win this ballgame.”

It’s nice to be confident, and as the third-rated quarterback recruit in the nation in 2010, there’s no doubt that Wittek has talent to match his bravado. But if USC coach, Lane Kiffin, calls it the “luck of the Irish” that Notre Dame “twice [comes] to the Coliseum with [Barkley] not playing in the game,” Kiffin will also live to regret the fact his back-up couldn’t keep quiet until after the game was over.

For if the Irish entered the game with luck, Wittek’s words insure that Notre Dame will be playing the game with fire.

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