LOS ANGELES -- USC plays the No. 17 squad in the country this week and the No. 3 team next week, and both are rivalry games with high stakes for the opponent.
Normally, you'd think the latter contest would be more difficult, tougher, more demanding -- whatever you want to call it.
But Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said the opposite on Thursday: His team's game this Saturday against No. 17 UCLA will be a lot tougher than next week's game against No. 3 Notre Dame -- because of the long-standing rivalries and relationships between a number of players on both teams.
"This is always the hardest week, a lot harder than next week," Kiffin said. "This is always the most challenging game on our schedule because of that, because of all the relatLionships and the families knowing each other and the kids knowing each other."
There is one clear positive out of the annual USC-UCLA game, Kiffin said. He has to worry about keeping his players' excitement levels down, but he doesn't have to give any pep talks.
"I think the one benefit would be, I don't think you'd ever have to worry about either team being excited for the game, the players being motivated or coming out flat," Kiffin said. "That's never the case."