Mitch Mustain's wait is probably over.
With Matt Barkley on crutches and in street clothes, Mustain worked as the No. 1 quarterback Tuesday and appears on track for his first USC start, Saturday against Notre Dame.
"I'm going into it like I'm going to take that first play, and if Matt hops up and is ready to go so be it," said Mustain, a fifth-year senior.
The odds favor Mustain, who last started a game in 2006 when he was a freshman at Arkansas.
Barkley suffered a high- ankle sprain against Oregon State, an injury that typically requires weeks to heal. Coach Lane Kiffin said that even if Barkley didn't practice this week, he would start him Saturday if he is deemed sound.
But that strikes of gamesmanship.
Mustain was 8-0 as a starter at Arkansas before transferring to USC in 2007. He was a redshirt and then battled Aaron Corp for a backup role behind Mark Sanchez in 2008 and behind Barkley last season before Corp transferred to Richmond after the Emerald Bowl.
Now, Mustain could be on the verge of starting for the Trojans in one of college football's greatest rivalries.
"It would be a pretty neat story if he ends up playing and playing really well," Kiffin said.
Said Mustain: "If there's a game to do it, this is it."
Mustain passed on the opportunity to transfer without having to sit out a season after the NCAA handed down sanctions against USC last summer. He knew there was a chance he would never start for the Trojans.
"You always look forward to it actually happening however slim it may be," he said. "If this is it, then I'll be ready to go for it.
"It's what I've been playing for, what I've been practicing for, what I stuck around this year for."
Last season, when Barkley's status was in doubt because of a shoulder injury, Corp said coaches never definitively told him that he would start against Washington.
"Our players will always know who's going to start the game, regardless of the position, and so will the unit," Kiffin said. "I don't know if that happened, but something like that would not be an issue here."
Mustain will be ready regardless.
"I don't care if it's a minute before, the year before or whatever," he said. "Whatever changes, however many times it changes before, I'll be ready."
Ineligible tailback Dillon Baxter practiced but was not made available to the media. Athletic Director Pat Haden said the freshman had paid $5 to charity for accepting a ride on a golf cart from a student who is an agent. … Cornerback T.J. Bryant had season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday. … Linebacker Chris Galippo, who suffered a concussion against Oregon State, did not practice but said he might return Wednesday.