Southern California senior quarterback Matt Barkley no longer stands between Notre Dame and a trip to the national championship game.
The Irish (11-0) took control of their own destiny Saturday night after upset losses knocked Kansas State and Oregon out of the BCS driver's seat. Notre Dame had only to survive a trip to Los Angeles and a game against the rival Trojans to punch its ticket to Miami.
That challenge got a little bit easier Sunday night when USC coach Lane Kiffin announced Barkley will miss next Saturday's game after he strained his shoulder in a loss to UCLA this weekend. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek is expected to start in Barkley's place.
Wittek has completed eight of his nine career pass attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown. The Santa Ana, Calif., native was rated as the third best pro style quarterback recruit in the country two years ago. He did not play as a true freshman least season, but beat out classmate Cody Kessler as Barkley's understudy this fall.
Barkley also missed Notre Dame's 2010 trip to Los Angeles due to injury. The Irish won that game 20-16 to finish Brian Kelly's first season in South Bend. Barkley threw for 224 yards and three scores against Notre Dame last fall.