Frankie V’s Prediction: Notre Dame v. USC ’18

Notre Dame heads into their regular season finale with an unblemished record with a spot in the College Football Playoffs on the line.  Forget any “Armageddon” theories you have heard or that ESPN has been peddling to make up for a lack of drama in the CFP Rankings the last month. A win and Notre Dame is in.  Standing in their way is their arch rival USC.  In most years, this would be one of the biggest games of the year.  This year, however, the Trojans are limping to the finish line and they might be on the verge of firing their head coach.

A year ago, the high point in the Notre Dame season was a 49-14 beatdown of USC at home.  A year later, the highlight of the regular season very well could be another blowout of the Trojans that propels the Irish into the playoffs.

What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week

Distractions/Hype. Distractions have not been a problem for this team so far this month.  Notre Dame’s played three of their last four games away from Notre Dame Stadium and they haven’t missed a beat.  They know what they are playing for and won’t be distracted by USC’s record.  They know they have one more game to take care of business before they reach the playoffs.

USC’s Talent vs. Production.  USC has a lot of talent on its roster.  You have no doubt heard about all of the 4 and 5 star recruits in the starting lineup the Trojans will trot out there tomorrow.  All of those stars however haven’t resulted in too many wins this year for USC for a number of reasons and after 11 games, all of those stars probably aren’t going to suddenly put it all together and play up to their capabilities.

Think back to the 2016 Fighting Irish coming into the USC game.  Notre Dame had entirely too much talent to only be 4-7 heading into that game.  The Irish played USC tight for a bit that Saturday afternoon, but there was a reason Notre Dame was 4-7 heading into the game and all of those reasons eventually showed their ugly heads that day as Notre Dame fell 45-27.

USC’s Run Defense. UCLA ran for 313 yards on USC last week including 289 on 40 carries by Bruin running back Joshua Kelley.  That’s a 7.2 yards per carry average to a back averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the season.  Dexter Williams enters tomorrow showdown averaging 6.7 yards a carry this season and 6.6 for his entire career.   Injuries in the front seven have USC’s run defense vulnerable and  Williams and Jafar Armstrong should be beneficiaries tomorrow.  Both have the kind of speed and explosiveness to be able to exploit any breakdowns in the Trojan run defense.

JT Daniels.  USC’s much ballyhooed freshman quarterback has not had a great start to his collegiate career.  In 10 starts this season Daniels has thrown just 13 touchdown passes compared to 10 INTs.  Seven of those 10 picks have come in the last five games he has started.  On the season he is completing just 57.4% of his passes as well.

Daniels has an elite arm and better days are ahead of him.  In fact, Clark Lea and the Notre Dame defense will have a lot of difficulties with him in the future.  They shouldn’t have too much of a problem with him tomorrow though.

What Worries Me This Week

Injuries.  Maybe getting ahead of myself a bit here, but injuries heading into the post-season (hopefully the playoffs) are a concern in a game like this where the Irish should be able to handle the Trojans relatively easily given all of their struggles.  Notre Dame will ideally have much bigger things to play for after this one while the Trojans’ season will be over with a loss tomorrow.  Stay healthy and get anyone who’s been nursing injuries (Kareem, Tranquil, Armstrong, etc) any additional rest possible.

Turnovers. One way for USC to make this a game is if Notre Dame turns the ball over early.  The Irish have done this far too often in the last month for anyone’s liking.  There was the fumble on the first drive of the Navy game by Miles Boykin, the botched exchange between Ian Book and Williams against Northwestern, and the interceptions by Brandon Wimbush against Florida State.  Notre Dame has been able to avoid having these miscues from hurting them too much so far.

If Notre Dame turns the ball over early and sets USC up with favorable field position, the Trojans have enough playmakers to make the Irish pay.  If Notre Dame protects the football and makes USC go the length of the field to score, the Trojan offense should have trouble sustaining drives against the Irish defense.

Amon Ra St. Brown.  One way outside of turnovers that USC can avoid having to sustain long drives is to get some chunk plays.  Notre Dame has been one of the best defenses in the country at preventing chunk plays, but they don’t have a favorable matchup with Amon Ra St. Brown versus the slot corner position.  Notre Dame has had some issues stabilizing that position this season before Nick Coleman settled in over the last few weeks, but he doesn’t have the top end speed to keep up with St. Brown.

JT Daniels does look for St. Brown, his high school teammate, whenever he gets in trouble so there will be some chances for him to make plays tomorrow night.  Notre Dame has to prevent St. Brown from burning them for huge gains.

My Own Overconfidence.  Usually when I feel as confident as I do heading into this game, something happens.  I just don’t see any way Notre Dame loses this game though.  USC is playing for bowl eligibility, but let’s be honest, you don’t go to USC to play for bowl eligibility in game 12.  You go there to play for a national championship.  Notre Dame has everything to lose and USC really doesn’t have all that much to gain in the grand scheme of things.

After what this team went through two years ago and everything that potentially lies ahead of them, this junior and senior class is not going to let Notre Dame lose.  I just don’t see USC having that same sense of urgency – especially after they were embarrassed last week by a terrible UCLA team.

Players to Watch this Week

  • Ian Book – He’s had a lot of good games this season, but I have a feeling we are about to see a great one.  Something along the lines of 300+ yards and 4 TD type performance.  He’s had 2 TD in each of his last 5 games.  He will have more than that tomorrow.
  • Dexter Williams – Williams is going to have a big game as well.  He needs 156 yards on the ground to reach 1,000 and while no one on the staff will admit it, they will be giving him every chance to reach it.
  • Chris Finke – He was one of the few bright spots last time Notre Dame traveled to Troy.  I think he’ll have another good game for the Irish as USC will forget about him.
  • Nick Coleman – Notre Dame needs him to continue his late season surge this week to prevent St. Brown from having himself a game.
  • Chase Claypool – He’s been ascending over the last month of the season and he could be the beneficiary of Book’s big game I feel coming.
  • Julian Okwara – USC has been pretty good in pass protection this season but they have given up 25 sacks this year.  Okwara could cap off his strong junior campaign with a 2.0 sack performance.
  • Jerry Tillery – He won’t admit it either, but Tillery will be looking for some redemption tomorrow considering his performance in the Coliseum two years ago.  Look for Tillery to have another big game for Notre Dame.

Prediction Time

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I think Notre Dame is going to win this game and win relatively easily.  I just don’t see USC being able to slow down the Irish offense much and expect the Irish defense to take advantage of playing a freshman quarterback who has struggled of late.  Notre Dame’s ability to get pressure with just the front four and drop seven into coverage specifically should help confuse the frosh and result in some early turnovers by the Trojan offense.

USC might keep it interesting for a little while, but Notre Dame will pull away in the end and by the 4th quarter the outcome will not be in doubt.  Notre Dame has been making a statement so far this month and that statement continues tomorrow as the Irish secure their spot in the playoffs with a convincing win.

Notre Dame 42, USC 17

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  2. Not being in a conference would have killed us if we lost and finished 11-1. It is a downside to being Independent. But at 12-0, it is a nice advantage, because we have an extra week to finish up classwork, watch film, and scout our opponents on TV and live if we want to. It’s a great luxury. So you see, something can be gained by the risk of not having a conference championship game…but we need to go undefeated to reap that benefit. And ND has done exactly that (at least this year). The ultimate upside of staying Independent though, is and has been keeping our home field TV rights as opposed to ceding them to a conference commissioner.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Someone get me some blood pressure medicine.

    Phew. Glad that one is over. The offense was definitely not on it’s A-ball today, but thankfully they did just enough.

    Defense came up big in the 2nd half, other than the late TD by USC (though in all fairness the receiver went so high to catch it I almost can’t blame the D).

    I’m certainly concerned about how they will show in the playoffs. But for the moment I’ll just enjoy 12-0 and wait to see who they’ll play first.

  4. Talk about a poor call. They decided to go conservative and not call that early time out and now USC escapes halftime with a lead. I CAN’T FREAKING BELIEVE IT. Even if you make no progress, with the time on the clock you could have just run it out even if you take all the time outs. I’m a fan and even I can figure that one out.

    If they used that first time out at worse, AT WORSE IT’S TIED 10-10. More times then not Yoon makes that FG. At best you go into halftime with a potential 14-10 lead and likely a demoralized USC team that had everything going their way only to blow it.

    Instead USC is feeling lucky right now to still be in the lead, thinking all they have to do is get a stop to start the half and they’ve got all the momentum. BK and co. put all their eggs in one basket now and they will have to live with that. That last minute of the first half could have been the first nail in USC’s coffin. Instead, they are breathing a sigh of relief.

  5. Thought it was rather hilarious listening to the deflation in Herbstreit voice when Notre Dame cause that fumble and recovered it some of you guys snake Flutie is bad Herbstreit is way worse

    1. Yeah, I can’t believe they didn’t call that first time out. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. No matter what happened, at worse they still could have run the clock out if nothing happened and they made little or no progress. Instead we are still down 10-7 and we could be at the very least probably tied.

      How can you be down against a dead coach walking. It’s going to come down to the 2nd half. The Irish have to score on their first possession. They started showing some life in the 2nd quarter. At least enough that I’m no longer having Miami 2017 flashbacks. But USC came for the upset.

  6. OK. Never mind about Book. He may have just saved the game with that huge 3rd down run. Hopefully the defense gets a stop and we take the lead. I think if ND can turn it around before half that will go a long way to saving this game.

    They don’t have to win pretty. With Michigan losing badly the Irish are safe with any win, even by one point.

    Let’s get it done.

  7. Trojan corner should have been tossed for targeting on that drive. Irish gotta muscle in and bring down Daniels

  8. Team looks extremely flat and tired we can thank swarbrick for that having a team jet set all over the country to play games

    1. Yeah. I thought we were through the woods when they crushed Syracuse. I’m having flashbacks of last year’s Miami game. If USC scores again that’s going to give me serious doubts they will be able to pull out a W. The defense has to come through. Hell, maybe they should consider putting BW out there for a while. At least he should be well rested from a playing time perspective (plus he gives a bit of a different wrinkle that USC maybe, MAYBE isn’t ready for)

  9. The Irish better wake up. USC came to play tonight guys. Any thought that they were going to sleep walk through this game is gone. Right now the Trojans want it more than the Irish. They are smelling blood and will be absolutely giddy with delight if they are remembered as the team that ruined ND’s perfect season.


  10. Problem is, Troy knows what Book is up to, being a west coaster himself. May have to go to Wimbush to crank things up.

  11. They did get past the game I was most worried about late in the season, Syracuse, and pretty handily. I agree with Frank. In every way ND should win this going away.

    If there is one thing that concerns me is USC will love nothing more than to be the team that knocks the Irish out of the playoff conversation. So far I’m hearing the right things out of the ND players and coaches. They have absolutely no intention of overlooking USC. They are well aware that many teams, esp. USC, will give the Irish everything they have. As long as the Irish just play USC today, and don’t look ahead, they should be ok.

  12. Time to take out the So Cal trash . Please realize making the final 4 is a HUGE deal, like basketball. I hope they never go to 8. This is great for the program and esp. the kids. I know hard heads will say it’s a NC or nothing. The 40’s & 70’s arn’t on the horizon. It’s a diff animal right now but we can still enjoy every minute of this.Screw SC, throw when we’re up 40.

    1. Ghosts of ‘64 still haunt me. Irish were up 17-0 at the half. Then lost on last play . Similarities abound. Irish were 9-0. Both QB’s were products of California. One of my brothers was only 3 at the time. Today He will be leading Irish bagpiper parade to VICTORY outside Coliseum. Here come the IRISH☘️

      1. They didn’t lose on the last play. They lost with something like 1:08 to go. I was recently graduated at the time and was in the Army. I justr couldn’t believe it.

  13. Nice pick Frank, we are one point off…I just hope it’s not even close at the beginning. I want a redux of Syracuse without the red zone mistakes.

  14. Even the daily condom expects a blowout☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️
    May as well leave the shellaigh trophy at home. Irish 34-17

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