Notre Dame v. USC ’14 – Key Matchups

Tarean Folston - Notre Dame RB vs. Louisville
Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Tarean Folston (25) rushes the ball against Louisville Cardinals safety James Sample (2) during the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. The Louisville Cardinals defeat Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame will look to avoid losing its fourth straight game when they travel to California to take on arch-rival USC.  The second half of the season has been riddled with mistakes, poor decisions and injuries which have led to a vastly different opinion on the Irish than that of six weeks ago.  The Trojans will test the Irish defense as they have many athletes and a talented quarterback capable of putting up big numbers.  Irish signal-caller Everett Golson will also need to get back to his early season form for the Irish to succeed as the Trojans possess little depth but a great deal of talent on the defensive side of the ball.  The following are the key matchups the Irish must control to emerge victorious:

Tarean Folston versus Hayes Pullard:  Irish running back Tarean Folston has been a bright light during the second half struggles for Notre Dame and will need another big effort versus Hayes Pullard and the Trojans.  Folston consistently rushes for over 100 yards when he is given an appropriate number of carries and it would be wise to give him the ball over 20 times on the road to control time of possession similar to the Florida State game.  Pullard is the emotional leader of the Trojans defense and has a team-high 84 tackles from his linebacker spot.

Ronnie Stanley versus Leonard Williams:  Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been criticised as have the other members of the Irish offensive line for their subpar play in recent weeks.  The Nevada native will need his best effort of the season this week when he faces Leonard Williams.  Williams is a consensus top five pick in the upcoming NFL draft and is the best defensive end in the country.  Williams has a team-high six sacks and three forced fumbles while consistently facing double and triple teams all season.

Jaylon Smith versus Javorius Allen:  Butkus award finalist Jaylon Smith will need to get the Irish defense back on track as they face a lethal and balanced Trojans offense led by running back Javorius Allen.  Smith has been solid all season for the Irish but has seen his play drop off slightly since Joe Schmidt’s injury.  Allen is a back that possesses good speed and power and averages over 100 yards rushing per game as well as being USC’s third-leading receiver.

Cole Luke versus Nelson Agholor:  Fresh off an excellent game versus elite receiver DeVante Parker, Cole Luke will need another great effort to slow down Nelson Agholor.  Luke has shown his ability to be a shutdown corner this season as he has good speed to go along with excellent instincts and ball skills.  Agholor is by far the Trojans most dangerous weapon as he has a team-high 85 receptions for 1103 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Agholor has elite speed so Luke may need safety help to slow him down.

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  1. a total rebuilding year for sure….looks like a fourth loss in a row…how many times in a season has that occurred before?

    ND has gone form bad to worse…maybe they ought to respectively decline any second tier bowl bid

  2. If the Irish can run the ball, they will control the clock, keep the young maligned defense off the field, and win the game. This also includes the defense getting a couple of timely stops and turnovers. This might be possible since Kessler isn’t mobile.

    If the Irish don’t establish the run and stay pass happy, they will lose in a shoot out.

  3. I completely agree, Michael. What other program would be so crippled by its own administration? FSU is at one end of the spectrum, ND at the other. Both are rediculous.

  4. Another key matchup, ongoing . . .
    The academic administration/compliance committee vs. the ND football program.
    This is the latest I’ve read:

    ” Kelly, when pressed Tuesday if there is a timeline on decisions, seemed to imply that Russell, Williams and Daniels may be looking at taking classes elsewhere next semester before POSSIBLY returning in the summer.”
    Kelly added, “I think it’s something that needs to happen (clarity on requirements), because they’ve got to make accommodations — KeiVarae, Ishaq and DaVaris, in particular — gotta make accommodations for academics in January,” Kelly said. “So it’s something that I know that academics and compliance have been working on very, very hard over the last few days.” Maybe, but certainly not the last several months!

    It isn’t enough they couldn’t play at all this season/semester. They apparently have to drop out this semester, after having been enrolled and in classes this semester,so they could be gone for two semesters so as return next summer so they could begin preparation next summer to play next Fall. What kind of wasteland ignorance rules this compliance committee? Are they just out to sabotage the football program “by any means necessary?” The academic decision-makers’ inability to get their act together by comparison makes the government appear very efficient . These academic deciders remain clueless and apparently vindictive, as they hide behind ‘student privacy’ . Forget about getting a different coach; get a different academic administration/compliance committee that recognizes, first and foremost, that their obstruction and small-mindedness, which would qualify them for higher political office, has no place in an academic setting. Enough already!

    Why would any established coach ever come to ND after this never-ending lunacy? To put up with this ongoing idiocy and self-righteousness? With an administration/compliance committee so inefficient,unsupportive, and clueless, why would any coach worth his weight even bother to show interest?

  5. ND can win if Golson takes care of the ball. Defense must stop the run and I like Greer’s play as MLB. Morgan seemed out of position most of the time and left the middle wide open for big runs. He seems better suited for OLB where he can use his speed in space, but doesn’t have the bulk and instincts to live in the middle.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with the comment on Tarean Folston. Give that young man the ball and let him run. He should see the ball a minimum of 25 times a game. Everett Golson should take off a few times as well just to keep things honest.

    And one more thing, please retire the wide receiver screen. That play is done like a dinner.

    Go Irish!

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