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Notre Dame’s Three Keys to Victory

As Notre Dame gears up to host the #6 USC Trojans, the Irish will have an opportunity to finally quiet all the doubters and critics that surround this proud team. If Notre Dame can pull off the upset this Saturday, it would be a momentum boost for Charlie Weis, nudging him off the hot-seat, and a momentum boost for the team. The Irish haven’t beat the Trojans since 2001, Pete Carroll’s first year as head coach. Notre Dame needs all three of the following factors to perform brilliantly, if they expect to hoist the Jeweled Shillelagh Saturday night.

The Heisman hopeful has yet to beat a ranked team during his tenure at Notre Dame, and will have to play like a Heisman contender to give the Irish a shot at winning. Notre Dame cannot have a legitimate shot at winning without a huge game for Jimmy Clausen, who will have to put up huge stats against a top defense. Clausen, who has been red-hot all season long, has only thrown under 300 yards once, and must throw for at least that for Notre Dame to win. He will need to play the field position game, and not turn over the ball to USC.

Notre Dames run defense

This unit of the team will need to have their best game of the season if they want to shut down USC’s stable of running backs. Lead by junior Joe McKnight, USC is loaded at this position, and has put up monstrous numbers this season, including three backs with at least 150 yds gained, and two backs with at least 5 touchdowns. USC is deep, and can turn to four different backs to produce a running game, as well as rely on the talents of full back Stanley Havili. If the front seven of Notre Dame can limit the run, and force freshman Matt Barkley to throw, Notre Dame will expose his vulnerabilities.  This game is Barkley’s only his third road start – he has a combined 52.75% completion percentage, no touchdowns and two interceptions. If this front seven can play well enough so that the leading tackler Kyle McCarthy can remain in the secondary and not come up to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, Notre Dame will put the weight of the game on a freshman quarterback and intimidate him enough to exploit its huge advantage.

Notre Dames Offensive line

Lead by captain Eric Olsen, this unit has been much improved from past seasons. But with the return of USC’s Armond Armstead, and other dynamic playmakers on their defensive front, this unit will need to play big, in order to open up the run game, and give Clausen time to throw the ball. USC’s defensive front, like its running backs, has a plethora of options to turn to, to make a game-changing play. With Everson Griffen, Nick Perry and Christian Tupou, Notre Dame’s front five will have their hands full all game. Not only will the offensive line need to play well, but tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running backs Armando Allen, Jonas Gray and Robert Hughes will need to pick up their assignments to give Clausen that extra second to get rid of the ball. Keeping Clausen and his toe off the ground and upright will be important for Notre Dame to pull off the upset.


  1. Additionally I’d like to let everyone know that I am the brother of the person who wrote this article. I am 4th generation ND but ended up going to SC for college (I guess I had a ‘reverse’ Manti Teo moment on my visit to SC). I was a diehard ND fan for 18 years of my life (went to 10 games between age 5-18) and 15+ of my relatives went to ND (great grandfather, grandfather, mom, aunts/uncles/cousins).

    Looking forward to the ND game more than any other as always

    (Oh and I originally came here just to stir the pot since my brother wrote the article)

  2. The* not they

    No “what how”
    Between auto correct and word suggestions smart phones can get screwed up. Ha

    • I am concerned about depth as well, especially at the DT and RB position. SC will need luck on the injury front again this year.
      However, with 19 starters returning from a team that manhandled oregon on the road for 3 quarters, there is a lot to get excited about. Additionally, having the best qb in the nation throw to the best receiver duo in the nation should hopefully provide enough points to make up for potential weakness on the d-line (or the d in general).
      If the offense cooks like it did at the end of last season (and it should with 9 starters back, barring serious injuries), teams are going to have to score into the 50s to beat SC

  3. oops, thought i was on the bama board. nevermind then cuz you guys have no shot at the natty hahaha

  4. see you all in the natty

    • Fight on,

      I see that you have bought into espn’s hype machine. Look, in no way is this a bashing session just the truth. I actually think usc has done well for themselves given their situation.

      BUT..I look at usc and see almost a carbon copy of the 06 irish team. Good qb, good recievers, decent back, and an ok defense. No game changers on defensive line with no depth to speak of. One decent runningback with barely more than walkons behind him. Secondary is a little better than 06 irish but again quality depth is an issue. Linebackers are above average at best.

      What I am saying here is this. You better hope barkely goes for 500+ yds/game and 5-6 tds/game or you aren’t going to beat anybody thats top 10 material.

      Again not bashing at all but you need to understand the sec hasn’t won the last 6 titles because of their dynamic offenses. Its been on the backs of their defense and the depth at one of the most important positions on the field, the defensive line. I appreciate what how sc has made they best of their situation but a title is not coming to usc this year. Good luck on your season and we will see you in november. GO IRISH

  5. What was he right about anyway?

  6. so i guess i was right…

    • Guess agian.

      You have been carring this around since 2009???

      Maybe it’s time you move out of your mom’s basement.

  7. This was a #6 vs #25 game where USC was favored by 10pts and ND had a chance to still win it on the last play. How can you blame the coach – brilliant fake FG. I’ll agree he’s not a great college head coach but he’s an great recruiter and Offensive Coordinator. ND fans can kiss this high powered offense and any chances next year by getting rid of Weis.
    By the way – ND’ 2nd string TE got kicked out of school for streaking on campus …imagine recruiting with those handicaps.

  8. Jack,

    1) The moral victory comment was directed at Joey. Read his comment above.

    2) I was partially joking about UM. But stranger things have happened. And they were helped by today’s scores. The Canes are better than we are. Look who’ve they beat already and their record.

    3) Randy Shanon has more signature wins this year than does CW in his entire ND career. Am I envious? Damn right! And you should be too!

    4) Chris Zorich went on to graduate from ND Law. Not too bad for a kid ND wouldn’t give a chance to today! The others I mentioned also all did well academically at ND as far as I know.

    5) Pete Caroll wins by the rules of the game as they now stand. I agree with you that ND should be taking more of a chance on some close calls. That was my point to begin with.

    6) I don’t care how hard CW works or how smart you think he is. He’s not winning big games. That’s what he gets paid to do. Not just stay all night looking at film in his office, but win games. Stop making excuses for him! Today was another signature loss for Weis. Period!

    7) You haven’t answered my question: What if ND loses to BC and another game? What then? Do you still make excuses for the “Fat Man”?

  9. You have got to be kidding me if you think Miami who got crushed by VT will be playing for a national championship. I will take that comment as your level of expertise in college football. Read something other than the glory days of ND with Holtz. I don’t think this is a moral victory, I think it is a loss and the defense looked bad, but I have faith they will get better, I guess you don’t. When you find the Messiah to coach this tteam, point him to South Bend to resurrect the program to win a NC every year. Please!

    • Jack,

      The same Miami team that beat ranked teams in FSU, GT, and OK? OK, FSU was over-rated. But OK has played well with a bunch of starters out. And GT beat VT today. But perhaps you are the one who doesn’t follow college ball that closely!

      I won’t suggest a savior for ND football quite yet, Jack. Not that you’d listen anyway, given how far up CW’s fat @ss your head is. All I’m saying is that in this business the head coach pays with his job if he doesn’t win. CW isn’t winning when it counts. Simple. Faust, Davie, Willingham failed and were fired. If CW continues to choke, he’ll be gone too and you’ll have to find another boyfriend.

      And as a true ND fan I do relish our glory days and look forward to there return–with or without CW.

  10. First, I don’t care about a moral victory, that is not the base of my arguement. Second Steelfan you got to be kidding me Miami playing for a National Championship. They need to leep frog a bunch of people and they are not that good. Third, Rice, Zorich and Waters would not be getting into ND today. I am from Harrisburg and Ricky Water went to Bishop McDevitt high school where they had special classes so he could pass. He is a Lashon McCoy. I agree we should be giving chances to players liks Rice and Zorich, but they wouldn’t get into the ND today. Finally I don’t have Rose colored glasses, SC out atheleted us in every position other than QB. For ND to be in that game was a miracle. Pete Carroll can not win in a league where the playing field is leveled. Get a clue half of the players that got into ND from 1988 to 1992 wouldn’t be getting in today. Zorich used to call ND the country club. In college football it is about the Jimmy’s and Joes and not the X’s and O’s. Weis is a better coach than Carroll and works twice as hard. Why do you think Urban Meyer didn’t want to come and coach here. You need to wake up and realize the administration needs to stop hand cuffing the coaches and allow some players that would be close getting in. You also need to realize why would anyone want to coach at ND after you watch the hours Weis puts in. He is basically an NFL coach at the college level. Do you think any other coach puts the hours in. No!

  11. BTW: To add insult to injury, Miami might be playing for a national title this year. Randy Shannon has already done more at UM in 3 years than Charlie Weis. He’s also recruiting better than Weis.

  12. Joey and Jack:

    Can we just drop the moral victory talk?! There’s nothing moral or noble about losing to SC under any circumstance. They have thugs. Agreed. The NCAA allows it. So, I guess we should move into the Ivy League. USC has always had thugs and we used to beat them. What changed? Perhaps this. Lou Holtz beat USC’s thugs by recruiting “marginal” student athletes who were every bit as athletic as SC’s. BTW: Those “marginal” students like Tony Rice and Chris Zorich all graduated and were great players for us! I guess the current ND administration and football supporters are going to have to get used to ND recruiting Noble Prize winners and never winning another national title. As for the ND defense, whatever you say, Jack. I don’t care for excuses. It SUCKS! Tenuta is overrated and Corwin Brown is a motivator and recruiter but doesn’t know the Xs and Os of the defensive game.

    I hope you guys sleep well tonight, feeling happy about your moral victory and all the genuises ND has on its roster. As for me, I’ll toss and turn all night because ND lost to SC. That’s the bottom line! I guess I can find YouTube highlights of “thugs” like Rice, Zorich, Bettis, and Waters beating USC.

    Enjoy life through your rose-colored glasses, boys!

  13. Steelfan,

    We are not going to be able to get some of the atheletes that USC and Florida get b/c they will not be able to get into the school. The defense thinks to much that is why they are slow. They need to react to what is going on around them. I will equate the defense to the offense of last year. The offense last year was thinking to much instead of reacting. Instead of knowing what is coming they were thinking to much about assignments. Harrison Smith, Manti, Flemming, and several other players are thinking instead of reacting. He who hesitates looses. I coached baseball long enough to know if you are at bat thinking you will be striking out, same thing in football. This offense doesn’t think they just react. The defense is still thinking and not reacting. The players are there they just need to get the system. Just like the offense grew after the USC game last year the defense will. The light bulb will go off.

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