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.
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
|Game||Pre-Season||Game Week||Actual Outcome|
|Week 12: Stanford||ND 24-21||ND 31-17|
|Week 11: Navy||ND 49-17||ND 45-24||ND 24-17|
|Week 10: Miami||ND 31-27||ND 38-24||UM 41-8|
|Week 9: Wake Forest||ND 34-24||ND 42-13||ND 48-37|
|Week 8: #14 NC State||ND 34-17||ND 34-24||ND 35-14|
|Week 7: #21 USC||USC 38-24||ND 34-31||ND 49-14|
|Week 6: North Carolina||ND 31-21||ND 41-17||ND 33-10|
|Week 5: Miami OH||ND 42-17||ND 49-13||ND 52-17|
|Week 4: #16 Michigan State||ND 24-13||ND 30-28||ND 38-18|
|Week 3: Boston College||ND 35-10||ND 35-10||ND 49-20|
|Week 2: #3 Georgia||UGA 29-27||UGA 29-27||UGA 20-19|
|Week 1: Temple||ND 31-21||ND 31-21||ND 49-16|
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.
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
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
SFR, BW showed confidence tonight. He plays with reckless abandon. Reminds of Teddy Bridgewater. Hope he doesn’t get blindsided and gets crumpled like similars. Btw where was Dexter and Dion?
Greg, I heard on Thursday that Dexter was still limping on the ankle. Not sure about Dion.
Great win. So satisfying.
What would this O be like if BW could consistently find and hit ESB, KS, CC, MB, AM downfield?! UNSTOPPABLE!
Hopefully E. St. Browns brother 5Star Amon Ra will choose Notre Dame after this debacle. Maybe We will see Him arm in arm with His big brother during the Alma Mater.
Totally agree, GK!
Playoff talk is way premature.
Great showing tonight when a lot was on the line. But, still need improvement before claiming a playoff win. Can’t live on turnovers alone.
OK, I think it’s over now.
Get the backups on O in the game next series. Keep starting D on one more series, though.
Boom. Great answers by Adams
If it weren’t for the O this would be a tight game right now. 28-21 ND or something like that. Fortunately the O showed up tonight.
ND went soft on D way too early. That’s on the coaches!
The redemption tour continues. Frankie, looks like Troy will break 20.
Yup, game on again!
Better score at least 49.
This D is so easy to figure out. Throw, throw, run up the middle. Rinse and repeat. Fortunately SC turned the ball over and shot themselves in the foot in the first half.
I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think ND’s D makes another stop this half so the O better score at least two more TDs.
No DB coverage… horrible coverage the whole drive. Now 14 in 2 drives. Terrible defensive play
Little nervous there, TJ. Wimbush need only 8 more attempts to go over. On side kick will be key here
Huge 3rd down and 10 conversion from BW to Claypool!!! Remember that play.
I think it might be a track meet from here on out so keep scoring Irish!
Here come the unanswered, need to and field goal to put this away.
Better not go 3 n out
So glad to see that vaunted Irish D pick up where it left off!
Yup, game on now!
Better respond with a long drive that put some points on the scoreboard!
My Wife and I were saying our before dinner prayer and in the middle I glanced at the tube and said ” Thank you Holy Spirit, he’s wide open” She said it’s time for Amen before any more disrespect is shown!
At least 3 points at the end there would’ve been great.
Keep focused because SC is going to come out firing in the second half. They have nothing to lose at this point in an elimination game.
Jeff, looks like both qB’s have been solved. Are we in playoff talk yet? Looks like 1966 all over again. We are already looking for that national crown. Have Trojans handed over the shillelagh yet.
OK, I;m so sick of Flutie Flakes! I call BS on him growing up an Irish fan. Or he was so bitter not to be recruited he turned on ND.
Either way I’m so over his anti-Irish crap!
This is just like Trojans/Utes last week. We better get points here
What’s going on with kick coverage?!
Relax Rob its 28-0. Kickoff coverage has been broke for years.
Still not a reason to be happy about it.
The screens haven’t worked all year, will somebody tell Kellyband Long that doesn’t work!
SFR, ACC crew. Trojans have about solved Wimbush.
More like the irish have solved Darnold
Yup, GK, refs keeping SC in it.
Is this a PAC crew?
For a moment I thought the offense would be the big winner tonight. Now, its up to the defense to pull this out.
BK can’t help himself, damn it!
Keep running until they stop you!!!
Way to abort a potential game clinching drive by getting too cute!
Agree run it till they stop you, but Kelly still has to be the smartest man in the room. He and Napoleon would do well together.
Jeff, did you predict the blowout? Don’t put anything past Trojans, refs will keep them within striking distance.
Yes they will and they just did
Keep the pedal to the metal!
I wonder what “Burgy’s” Plan B is tonight? Butch Davis busy, “Burgy”? How did FIU do? I know you’re a huge fan.
Darn old thought he was setting up for beach volleyball at His hometown San Clemente
Great Start. 7-0 Irish
Glad to see we still ate overthrowing our receivers.
You still raking leaves Greg? The game has started.
Very little talk about this game on the different networks covering college football. All they want to talk about is Penn St. vs Mich. This rivalry has seemed to
have lost its luster.
I could not agree more regarding the number of attempts for Wimbush. My magic number is 25. If ND has to throw the ball more than 25 times tonight, they will lose the game. If the passing attempts are in that 20-25 range, that spells victory for the Irish.
Maybe, but maybe also Wimbush and the WR/TE corps get the passing game untracked and it becomes a weapon rather than a deterrent to stacking on the run.
Exactly. But how many are caught will mean a lot, not just how many attempts. All we have to do to make it a weapon is to catch the ball consistently.
BGC ’77 ’82
MTA, the only humorous thing Ronnie says is “plan b”, is that to pop open open another Burgie?
Forgot to mention, keep the enemy closer…. watch for the Trojans in a demoralizing effort to slip in #10 Jalen Greene at a wide out or flank and throw long. He was a much heralded QB in high school. I’m sure they have been rehearsing this all season long.
1. much waling and gnashing of teeth in the coming comments during the game.
2. if ND wins, the pollyannas will predict a NC, despite maybe the most challenging remaining schedule this year in CFB.
3. If ND loses, doomsday domers will predict many more losses to follow.
4. both the pollyannas and doomsday domers will be wrong.
5. Burgundy providing humorous replies on this thread (we’re counting on you, Ron, so stay tuned.)
0-5 in my predictions 2nite . . .
I’ll take Wimbush. You can have Darnold.
Don’t know who’s more disappointed with the ND win- Coach Helton or the guy NBC pays to diminish ND, Doug “I lost in the Liberty Bowl to ND and could never get over it” Flutie
Montgomery VanGorder leads the Irish to a one for the ages come from behind win against the Trojans. 49-42 double OT Victory
Frankie, glad to see you have come to your senses. The Irish want that shillelagh back where it belongs. Irish prevail, 31-28. CJ Sanders sets up game winning field goal by Yoon. It’s written in the Shamrocks.
Your lips to God’s ears. Go Irish!
Healthy or not Dexter won’t see the field. For some reason they refuse to believe he’s a difference maker