Notre Dame Football Primer: USC Between the Irish & Playoffs

Fresh-off a blow out win against #12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium, the Fighting Irish will head back to California to take on their most bitter rival, the Trojans of USC. Just 6 years ago Brian Kelly led Notre Dame into the Coliseum and catapulted the Irish into the National Championship. A win on Saturday will almost certainly lock Notre Dame into their first College Football Playoff Appearance.

Essential Game Info

  • Game Time: November 24th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Location: Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
  • Matchup: Notre Dame is 47-37-5 all-time against the USC Trojans (Last Meeting 2018: Notre Dame won 49 to 14).
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -10.5

Los Angeles Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 0% chance of rain with a high of 68 degrees and a low of 51. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).


USC Details

  • Conference: Pac-12 (South Division)
  • Head Coach: Clay Helton
  • 2018 Record: 5-6
  • 2017 Record: 11-3

USC Storylines

Let Down Season. The Trojans are coming off two 10+ win seasons and 2 New Year’s Six Bowl Appearances. Yes, Sam Darnold left for the NFL, but USC is known for having great quarterbacks step in right away. This year the Trojans likely won’t even make a bowl, unless they beat the Irish. Many thought this matchup could be a major factor in the College Football Playoffs for both teams; but it only is for the Irish.

True Freshman JT Daniels leads Trojans. Daniels was a 5-Star quarterback heading out of high school last season. His freshman campaign has seen its share of ups and downs. JT Daniels is 179 for 312 (57.4%) with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is not a dual-threat quarterback; on the season he has 43 attempts for -131 yards. Last weekend against rival UCLA, Daniels went 20 for 34 with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

JT Daniels will have to perform considerably better against another major rival, the Fighting Irish, this weekend.

Talented USC Receiving Core. The Trojans have always been known to have a great passing attack and group of wide receivers, this year is no exception. USC is led by Michael Pittman Jr., Tyler Vaughns, and a familiar face in Amon-Ra St. Brown. Pittman Jr. has 34 receptions for 667 yards (leads team) and 6 receiving touchdowns (leads team). Vaughns has 46 receptions for 554 yards and 5 touchdowns. While St. Brown leads the team in receptions with 50 and has 656 receiving yards.

Notre Dame Storylines

Fighting Irish Defense Dominates again. After yet another week of “Skeptics” doubting the Irish, Notre Dame completely shut-down the Syracuse Offense. Quarterback Eric Dungey did leave the game midway through his second drive, but Notre Dame’s total domination against the Orange was spectacular. If it wasn’t for a cheap field goal at the end of the game against Notre Dame’s backups) the Irish would have solidified their first shutout since Michigan in 2014.

Red-Zone woes. Even though Notre Dame beat a top 12 ranked Syracuse team by 33 points, they still left a lot of points on the board. At one point, the Irish had 3 straight trips inside the 10-yard line “essentially”. The Irish settled for 2 field goals as well as an interception. Ian Book’s interception was forced by Tommy Kraemer inadvertently stepping on Book’s foot, which could have led to a wide-open touchdown pass.

Nevertheless, the Irish left 15 points on the board among those 3 red-zone trips. Field goals may be enough to win games against inferior opponents, but certainly not against playoff caliber football teams.

Tables have turned. Since the departure of Pete Carroll and the hiring of Brian Kelly, this rivalry has completely changed. Notre Dame is 5-3 against USC since Kelly became head coach (that is counting the 2012 and 2013 wins). Before the 2010 season, the Trojans had won 8 straight games over the Irish and were in the top 10 for each of those 8 wins.

Now the Irish are consistently in the playoff conversation and find themselves as a major favorite this weekend.

College Football Playoffs. I most certainly believe the Irish will be a lock for the playoffs with a win this weekend. Don’t worry about the national media’s “click bait” that attempts to convince fans otherwise. The last time Notre Dame made the National Championship was in 2012 and Brian Kelly is 4 quarters away from heading back to the playoffs (as it has become now).

Head to Head Matchups

Notre Dame Offense vs. USC Defense: Last weekend against UCLA, the USC Trojans gave up 289 yards on the ground to Joshua Kelley. Kelley is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the season. What do you think will happen when Dexter Williams, 6.8 yards per carry faces this defense?

Even if USC attempts to shutdown the Notre Dame running game, which they likely won’t, that will open up the air attack for one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, Ian Book. I don’t see the Trojans being able to shutdown both Ian Book and Dexter Williams.

Advantage Notre Dame

USC Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Early in the year USC only mustered 3 points against Stanford and 14 points against Texas. In their last 3 contests the Trojans have been averaging 26 points per game. The USC wide receivers “may” get pass the Irish Secondary a few times, but that is doubtful.

After Notre Dame’s dominating win last weekend and performances throughout this football season they have the distinct advantage.

Advantage Notre Dame

Special Teams: USC Kicker Michael Brown is 6 for 8 on this season. Across from Brown, Justin Yoon has made 15 of his 19 field goal attempts.

Notre Dame has struggled all season on Special Teams. Whether it has been kickoffs out of bounds, kickoff returns for touchdowns, unusually short punts, or blocked punts, the Irish have not put together a complete game on special teams this entire year. The Irish can likely afford not to be perfect this weekend, but against Clemson or Alabama? Absolutely not.

Advantage: USC

My Prediction

The Irish are 6 years removed from the 2012 season and they’re heading back to Los Angeles in attempt to finish another undefeated campaign. Notre Dame’s biggest rival, the USC Trojans, are the only team standing in their way. It would be only fitting to see the Irish beat USC in their own backyard to advance to the playoffs.

After their performances last weekend, Notre Dame will head into this game as a major favorite. This is the most complete team Brian Kelly has had in South Bend. Notre Dame’s Defense is without a doubt one of the best units in the entire country. The Irish Offense is dynamic through the air and on the ground. With Ian Book and Dexter Williams, they will be extremely difficult for the Trojans to slow down.

USC is the final game remaining on the regular season schedule for the Irish. This team understands that they are only 4 quarters away from becoming the first team in Notre Dame History to make the College Football Playoffs. If the Irish play like they did against the Orange, USC has no chance (excluding the red-zone offense). I have Notre Dame winning by 31 points.

 Prediction: Notre Dame 48 USC 17

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  1. The Irish should never take the toejams lightly because when they do, ND drops the ball and then eats it. The toejam QB (skinny kid with pimples) loves to thrown long deep balls to his receivers especially to St. Brown. Those balls hang up there in the sky for seconds which is just long enough for our corners to pick them off or, at least, deflect them. USC gets penalized a lot and I’m sure the Irish are going to see a lot of that this Saturday. Hopefully the Irish go into this game like they did against Syracuse and if so, this game will be over in the 3rd quarter has Bradford have so aptly pointed out.

  2. Ok strange comments in this post-anyways I’m guessing the Irish will win by at least 4 TDs. As long as the Irish keep doing what they have been doing all season long, this should be over by the 3rd quarter. Go Irish!

  3. Daniels should be QBing His High School Team this Friday night in SoCal Championship. Instead He will get His bell rung by probably Julian Okwara, or Jerry Tillery or Gilman blitz. And then there is one Markese Steppe lurking on Troy roster, what’s that all about, is he ready to breakout. And our own Javon McKinley #88. He should finally get to show His stuff in front of home town folks. Troy people are very poor sports. So sad to see them quit on their idols, heading for the Coliseum tunnels. Troy make make a few gagits work. But, when Dexter Williams makes a few signature runs that will lead the Irish to the playoffs. Irish 33-17

    1. I don’t see this game being as close, though I like your sentiment. I am leaning more towards another beat down of USC… in their own back yard, this time.

      IRISH 56
      Trojans 14

    2. GK , rumors in LA LA LAND are off the charts this week. Latest reports from Trojan practice this week — have the bubble butt Kardashian sisters working with the O -line. Kim is at center position — but Kanye not happy. QB JT Daniels “unusual long count on snap under center” is a bit alarming. I see a lot of blood on the Coliseum floor–the likes never before seen since days of Emperor Nero. Irish win 12-0 and onto the playoffs.

      1. Remember Boastful Keyshawn Johnson, he got His comeuppance in frozen South Bend, ( well Hank, they use the same air). Before he got to La La land He was at a LA JC. He scored on Long bomb and ran out of end zone to grab a hot dog at a roach coach! Only in LA!

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