Notre Dame controls its own destiny, if they defeat their biggest rival, the USC Trojans, they’ll play for the national championship. College Gameday will be on hand for the primetime showdown, marking the third time Notre Dame has been on gameday this year. The Trojans will be without star quarterback Matt Barkley, but they still possess many weapons the Irish must slow down. The following are this week’s key matchups for the battle between the Irish and the Trojans:
KeiVarae Russell versus Robert Woods
True freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell will also face his toughest test of the season against Robert Woods. Woods is the other half of the best one-two punch at receiver in college football. The standout junior has tallied 66 receptions for 721 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Woods can both beat you deep and make you miss to turn a three yard throw into a 50 yards gain, so Russell’s speed and tackling will be tested. Russell is fifth on the Irish with 47 tackles, a few of which have save touchdowns. Russell will need his best effort of the season to contain Woods.
Bennett Jackson versus Marqise Lee
Bennett Jackson has seen plenty of elite receivers this season, but none more talented than Marqise Lee. Lee is the best receiver in college football; he has 107 receptions for 1605 yards and 14 touchdowns so far this season, to go along with over 100 yards rushing and a kick return touchdown. Irish head coach Brian Kelly has said the key to stopping Lee is tackling as he does a lot of damage after the catch, luckily for the Irish Jackson can tackle. Jackson ranks third on the Irish with 55 tackles and will need to perform as he did against high-powered passing attack Oklahoma to slow down Lee.
Tyler Eifert versus T.J. McDonald
One of the many matchups Saturday that features two future NFL players going head-to-head will be Tyler Eifert versus T.J. McDonald. Notre Dame`s all-American tight-end leads the Irish with 40 receptions for 555 yards and four touchdowns and has elevated himself to become one of the nation’s best blocking tight-ends as well. Eifert`s blocking will be important as McDonald is a safety who likes to get involved in stopping the run as he leads the Trojans with 89 tackles. McDonald is also strong in coverage and is very instinctive with two interceptions this season, so he and Eifert`s battle will truly be one to watch.
Christian Lombard versus Morgan Breslin
Notre Dame`s right tackle Christian Lombard has started every game for the Irish this season, and the former understudy of Taylor Dever will need to play his best this Saturday. Lombard will be charged with shutting down Trojans defensive end Morgan Breslin. Breslin has recorded 49 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and four bass breakups this season. Breslin is an elite speed rusher, so Lombard will need to be technically sound to shut him down.
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