SOUTH BEND – You have to hand it to Max Wittek, who is the latest in a long line of strong-armed USC quarterbacks to stare down an epic battle with hated-rival Notre Dame, the kid has some bravado.
In his first week as “the guy” for the Trojans in wake of senior Matt Barkley's shoulder injury last Saturday against UCLA, the redshirt freshman spoke on Tuesday very confidently of his team's chances of knocking off the No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish (Saturday at 8 p.m., ABC).
"I'm going to go out there," Wittek said in an interview with a Los Angeles radio station, "I'm going to play within myself, within the system, and we're going to win this ballgame."
The interview was conducted after Brian Kelly's weekly news conference, so the coach wasn't able to address the youngster's prediction. However, Kelly did speak on the philosophy that his program has toward creating controversy with upcoming opponents.
“I don't coach (the players) about what they say and how they say it,” Kelly explained. “They understand the basic tenets of being part of a championship program.
That is, first of all, speak for yourself. Don't comment on things that you don't know about. And they see that every day on a sign that we have in our building.”
Another rule that Kelly has indoctrinated into the mindset of his players is to temper any enthusiasm, even if you are the highest ranked program in the country. That might be something that Wittek probably could learn a thing or two about in the future.
“Don't fuel any expectations,” Kelly said. “We are the only ones in here that know what we want to accomplish on a day-to-day basis.”
The Fighting Irish have become relevant nationally for the first time in decades by focusing – and working - on minute details on a daily basis, not talking about what they want to accomplish according to their coach.
“We stay so much more small picture,” Kelly explained, “that we don't get outside and think of those things at 35,000 feet. We are operating on 'You better have a good day today in practice because you just watched film and we saw the things that you did wrong yesterday.'”
Kelly noted that he and his coaching staff are there to teach the Notre Dame players, who have been perfect in terms of results, that they are not perfect in terms of their play.
“You don't see that stuff,” Kelly said of many of his players' mistakes. “So we are able to take it and deal with the detailed stuff. That's why we keep them away from the big picture, because they don't see it that way. They don't come to work that way on a day-to-day basis.”