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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 13 PRIMER / THE LOCALS

November 27, 1998|ROBYN NORWOOD

No. 9 Notre Dame (9-1) at USC (7-4)

* Kickoff: 5 p.m., Channel 7

* Story line: USC has the streak in this rivalry--two games and counting--and the Trojans are the surprise favorite against the once-beaten Irish after quarterback Jarious Jackson sprained his knee last week while taking an intentional safety in the closing moments against Louisiana State.

* USC update: The Trojans have a chance to finish the regular-season 8-4 and an opportunity to knock off a ranked team for the first time since the 1996 overtime victory over the Irish at the Coliseum--the same game that ended a 13-game winless streak against Notre Dame. Linebacker Mark Cusano played the hero each of the last two years, knocking down a fourth-down pass on the final play of overtime two years ago and making a fourth-quarter interception that set up the winning field goal last year. Receiver R. Jay Soward, limited to 12 plays because of a sprained ankle last week against UCLA, has a green light this week and is about 90%.

* Notre Dame update: Either freshman Arnaz Battle or junior Eric Chappell will start at quarterback, and neither has much experience. They have attempted two passes and completed one this season, combined. All that's riding on the game is a great rivalry and Notre Dame's bowl destination. A victory figures to put them in a Bowl Championship Series game and a loss sends them to the Gator Bowl. The Irish have lost only one game, 45-23, against Michigan State in the second game of the season, but have won three games by three points or less--against Purdue, Army and Louisiana State.

* Edge to USC: It's time the Trojans won a big game, and the injury to Jackson swings the game to their favor.

* Line: USC by 8 1/2.

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