Notre Dame hosts their long-time rival, the Trojans from the University of Southern California this weekend. The Irish enter the game ranked #13 in the AP Poll as the Trojans come in at #11. This will be a crucial game for the Irish as they attempt to navigate a brutal second half schedule to the playoffs.
What you Need to Know:
- Game Time: October 21st 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
- Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
- Matchup: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 46-37-5 (USC won last year’s matchup 45 to 27); Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -3.5
- GameDay Events: The Pep Rally will take place 6:00 p.m. Friday, October 20th at the Hesbrugh Library Quad. For more information on GameDay Events visit http://gameday.nd.edu/events/calendar/2017-usc/
- Conference: Pac 12
- Head Coach: Clay Helton
- 2017 Record: 6-1
- 2016 Record: 10-3 (Rose Bowl Champions)
USC has not beaten the Irish in South Bend since 2011. Can they finally come into South Bend and pull off the upset? Although USC is the higher ranked team, Notre Dame is favored in this matchup. The Trojans have won 15 of their last 16 games, dating back to last season and appear to be running away with the PAC-12 South.
Which Sam Darnold will Notre Dame see? Sam Darnold only has 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, not exactly a Heisman ratio. However, he was 27 of 50 for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns against Utah. If quarterback Sam Darnold plays to his potential, it will be a tough matchup for the Irish. Early in the season Darnold was throwing a lot of interceptions and had a low completion percentage. Now it appears he has started to get back to his 2016 form, which can cause havoc for opposing defenses.
Darnold is also complimented by strong offensive weapons; which feature running backs Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr, along with standout wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Ronald Jones II has 640 yards on the ground, good enough for 6.3 yards per carry, and 8 touchdowns. He is accompanied by Stephen Carr who has 309 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and 3 touchdowns. Stud receiver, Deontay Burnett, has 49 receptions for 626 yards with 6 touchdowns.
USC is not running low on offense weapons, as usual.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Can Notre Dame kickoff daunting second half with a win? Notre Dame has placed itself in great position through the first half of the schedule. The Irish were able to win 5 of 6 games, while only losing by 1 point to the #3 team in the country (a game they could have easily won). Now the Irish will face a second half schedule that currently features 4 ranked teams, including this week’s opponent the USC Trojans. If the Irish have playoff aspirations, they have to win this weekend’s matchup and hopefully they will be catapulted into the top 10 rankings.
Will Wimbush and the running core be healthy for USC? By all indications, starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush will be ready for the Trojans. Ian Book performed admirably against North Carolina, but Wimbush’s athleticism presents a new element for opposing defenses. Deon McIntosh received a lot of carries against the Tar Heels, but look for Josh Adams and Dexter Williams to get all the reps against USC. Hopefully the Irish rushing attack can be back to full health against USC.
Can the Fighting Irish Defense hold the potent Trojan Offense to 20 points or less? The vastly improved Irish Defense has been highlighted by 14 turnovers and not allowing a single team over 20 points. Unfortunately for the Irish they are not playing the Trojans of a few weeks ago. USC’s Offense is starting to heat up, along with its potential #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, Sam Darnold.
Can Notre Dame keep the USC ground game out of the endzone? As good as the Trojans Offense can be, Notre Dame has only allowed 1 rushing touchdown in the entire season. They are the only team in the country to do so. Notre Dame stars Drue Tranquill and Nyles Morgan will be amped up under the lights in South Bend. This will be a good matchup.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. USC Defense – Advantage Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Offensive line is perhaps the best in the entire country. Notre Dame has been able to run all over every defense they have played, with the exception of Georgia. Notre Dame has already scored 23 rushing touchdowns. USC is only allowing opponents to score 23.7 points per game, which is quite good with the competition they have faced thus far. If Brandon Wimbush is healthy, the Notre Dame Offense will be difficult to slow down.
USC Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense – Tie- The Trojans bring a formidable Offense into South Bend this weekend. But, the Notre Dame Defense has been vastly improved under Mike Elko. This will be perhaps the biggest test of the season for the Irish on defense. USC has a balanced attack of running and passing. When Darnold has a hot hand, there may not be a better quarterback in the country. This is an even matchup heading into the weekend.
Special Teams – Tie- USC’s kicker, Chase McGrath is 8 of 9 on the season and 2 of 3 from behind 40+ yards. For the Irish Justin Yoon is 7 of 10 and only 3 of 6 from behind 40+ yards this season. The Irish haven’t had much spark on punt returns or kickoffs this season. This matchup is a tie for both teams, and I’m beginning to wonder if CJ Sanders will make an impact on special teams this season.
Notre Dame has not beaten the Trojans by more than 10 points since 2001. I do not see the Irish beating the Trojans by more than 10 either this weekend. If Brandon Wimbush is healthy, along with the running back core, I believe the Irish will pull off the victory.
The Irish have played the Trojans good in South Bend in recent history. USC started out of the gates slow, almost getting upset by Western Michigan. But they are continuing to improve each week, and I know that they will give the Irish their best shot. Notre Dame’s Offensive line, mobile quarterback, and stingy defense will be too much for the Trojans. I have the Irish winning 38 to 28.
My Prediction: Notre Dame 38 USC 28