Frankie V Prediction: Notre Dame vs. USC ’17

Josh Adams - Notre Dame RB

The long, excruciating bye week is over.  It’s game day.  Notre Dame and USC are mere hours away from squaring off in a playoff eliminator in the newly renovated House that Rockne built.  Two months ago this was one game on the schedule that I was sure would be a loss. A lot has changed since then though.  Note Dame is 5-1 with its lone blemish being a one point loss at the hands of the current #3 team in the country.  Is it enough for me to change my prediction and pick the Irish? Let’s find out.

What Worries Me This Week

Sam Darnold and USC playing their first full game of the season.  USC has not looked anything like the team that started the season in the top 5 or the one that ended last year as one of the hottest teams in the country to this point this season.  Still, wouldn’t it just be our luck for USC to have their first game of the year when they realize “oh yeah, we are a really talented football team”?  We’ve seen it happen before in this series.   At the same time, we’ve seen the reverse happen where the Trojans come in arrogant and Notre Dame simply plays tougher and beats them down (see 1995).  I think we will see something in the middle this year, but after all of the Heisman campaigns we’ve seen Notre Dame defenses allow to kickoff in the past, I am just a tad jaded.

Notre Dame’s injuries in the backfield. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to stay healthy at running back this year with a slew of minor bumps and bruises.  Most weeks those minor injuries sent players to the sidelines early because games were in hand.  Still, Notre Dame needs all of its backs tonight to take down the Trojans.  Josh Adams is said to be 100% as is Tony Jones.  The question mark is Dexter Williams who Kelly said isn’t 100% and Notre Dame will need to pick and choose their moments to use him.  Was that  a bit of gamesmanship?  Is Dexter healthier than he is leading on?  Is he not even close to healthy and Kelly is being Coy?  We don’t really know since a Brian Kelly injury report is never exactly forthcoming.

Notre Dame trying to get too cute again. Remember what happened in the last big game this year?  Notre Dame game out and tried a gimmick on the first play of the game and it set the tone for the rest of the game.  The Irish told Georgia essentially that they didn’t think they could beat them straight up.  Notre Dame doesn’t need to do that tonight.  Notre Dame is more talented in the trenches than USC – especially with USC’s injuries.  The Irish should come out and pound the ball.  Run right at USC.  The Trojans are the kind of team that will eventually give up if you come out and hit them in the mouth and never let off.  If Wimbush attempts 30 passes tonight, Notre Dame will lose.  Run it tonight.  Right it right at USC from the first whistle and don’t look back until the end of the game.

Turnovers.  Notre Dame has been forcing turnovers at a great rate this year and Darnold has been a turnover machine early on.  So why do turnovers worry me?  Because football is a weird game.  Everything points to Notre Dame being able to force turnovers and continue to capitalize on them tonight.  Everything in the world said that the Denver Broncos should crush the New York Giants on Sunday night though too.  Perhaps I am overthinking things here, but when there are obvious trends in this series, the opposite tends to occur when the game is actually played.

What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week

The health of Brandon Wimbush.  The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Notre Dame.  Wimbush is 100% and they will need every single percent of him tonight.  While he’s struggled with his arm so far this year, he has excelled with his legs and I see the latter happening again tonight.  I think we’ll see improvement from him in the passing game with the bye week and fall break to spend focusing on football and self scouting.  I don’t expect Wimbush to be confused with Carson Wentz – the toast of the NFL – just yet, but I do think we will see another Michigan State style passing performance out of him.

The loss of Greer Martini. Martini has been lights out this year so far and has exceeded my expectations for him easily.  That said, I think Notre Dame will be just fine tonight with Tevon Coney who has also far exceeded my expectations.  Depth could be a bit of a concern at linebacker without Martini, but the Irish shouldn’t skip a beat with Coney in the starting lineup tonight.

The hype. I love that College Gameday isn’t in South Bend this week actually.  I know a lot of fans were all up in arms about it, but this game didn’t need any more hype than it already has.  Notre Dame is still not too far removed from being a 4-8 football team so it shouldn’t be hard for the coaches to keep them grounded and focused.

Notre Dame’s ability to run the football.  As noted above I think Notre Dame should run the football tonight.  Better yet, I think they will run the football pretty damn well tonight.  USC is giving up almost 150 yards on the ground this year and other than Stanford they haven’t faced a team that can run the ball like Notre Dame.

Players the Watch This Week

  • Kevin Stepherson – Coming off the bye, Stepherson is going to finally make his mark tonight.  Look for Stepherson to get behind the Trojan defense early and make a huge play for Notre Dame.  Once that happens, Notre Dame’s run game will take over.
  • Equanimeous St. Brown – With his 5-star brother in attendance vs. their home state program, I think we will see St. Brown finally look like the #1 wide receiver that we all anticipated him to be.
  • Tevon Coney – See above.  Coney could have the best game of his career tonight.
  • Shaun Crawford – Kid is a ballhawk.  Sam Darnold has been a turnover machine.  Do the math.
  • Jerry Tillery – The lowest moment of Tillery’s career came last year against USC.  Watch for him to look for some redemption tonight.
  • Josh Adams – Adams has a chance tonight to put his name in the Heisman mix.

How’d I Do Last Week

Before jumping into this week’s prediction, let’s take a look at how I did last time out. Not terrible, but not that great either.  I had Notre Dame winning by 34 and they won by 23.  I thought that Ian Book wouldn’t have a tough time throwing the football against the undermanned Tar Heels, but he looked kind of like a kid making his first career start since he was in fact making the first start of his career.  Overall though, I haven’t been doing too bad this year on the prediction front in terms of being close to the margin of victory or defeat so I guess it wasn’t too bad.

Prediction Time

In August I thought this game was a sure loss.  USC was supposed to be one of the best 5 teams in the country coming off of their Rose Bowl win over Penn State.  I thought Notre Dame would be improved this year but didn’t think the Irish would be improved enough to this point to pull off a win.  Well, USC is a lot worse than I thought they would be and Notre Dame is a lot better than I thought they would be as well.  It’s taken all week long, but I have come around to think that Notre Dame pulls this one off.  I know a lot of the computer models are predicting Notre Dame by a lot, but I’m not ready to go that far.

I think Notre Dame will run the ball well tonight.  Adams and Wimbush will both go over 100 yards. Wimbush will be efficient throwing the football but won’t have to throw it a lot.  Defensively, Notre Dame will force a couple turnovers but USC will also be the first team to score more than 20 points in a game on a Mike Elko Notre Dame defense.  In the end, USC’s injuries and turnovers will prove to be what does them in.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, USC 31
Preseason Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 38

Weekly Predictions

GamePre-SeasonGame WeekActual Outcome
Week 12: StanfordND 24-21ND 31-17
Week 11: NavyND 49-17ND 45-24ND 24-17
Week 10: MiamiND 31-27ND 38-24UM 41-8
Week 9: Wake ForestND 34-24ND 42-13ND 48-37
Week 8: #14 NC StateND 34-17ND 34-24ND 35-14
Week 7: #21 USCUSC 38-24ND 34-31ND 49-14
Week 6: North CarolinaND 31-21ND 41-17ND 33-10
Week 5: Miami OHND 42-17ND 49-13ND 52-17
Week 4: #16 Michigan StateND 24-13ND 30-28ND 38-18
Week 3: Boston CollegeND 35-10ND 35-10ND 49-20
Week 2: #3 GeorgiaUGA 29-27UGA 29-27UGA 20-19
Week 1: TempleND 31-21ND 31-21ND 49-16


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  1. Damian 2 years ago

    Wow! That’s all I can say. Here I was just worried about ND squeaking by with a hard fought win. Never in a million years did I think they would blow out USC. Yes, USC made a lot of critical mistakes, but ND also capitalized on pretty much all of them. ND dominated in all aspects of this game. Ever…single…one. Offense, defense, even special teams. And hat’s off to the offense. They pounded the ball down USC’s throat, and they actually had a respectable passing game. This team may actually be better then the 2012 team because the defense is playing well, and the offense is playing well, AND they are running the ball well.

    At the same time, it’s important for the team to remember there are still some good teams ahead of them. I’m sorely tempted to jump on the Pollyanna wagon from my cautiously optimistic wagon, but I don’t want to jinx anything. For now I’ll stay cautiously optimistic. How we know in CFB that we are one bad game, one injury from seeing the wheels come off.

    But this game was extremely satisfying. Never did I think I could pretty much relax by the time half time came around. Never did I think we’d see Ian Book in the game because we were blowing out USC. The team should relish this victory, but remember, NC State and every other team we meet for the rest of the year would love to be the one to wreck it all. Keep dominating and things will fall into place.

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    1. Dan MacDonald 2 years ago

      Well said Damian. But this is the ND experience I remembered as a kid; beating very good teams
      regularly, worried about let downs against other solid teams, knowing each week we were functionally
      the NC game to every opponent. For the first time in maybe a decade, it feels as if we are getting back

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    2. southside 2 years ago

      Damian — Wow indeed ! Great post game comment — and the thinking/mind set of 99.9 % of Irish fans on this blow out of USC. Stay the course lads. This team is getting better as season goes on. One game at a time — up next North Carolina State

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