Frankie V’s Prediction: Why Am I Irrationally Worried About Notre Dame this Week?

Notre Dame QB Ian Book

It’s Notre Dame – USC week and the Irish are a double-digit favorite, and the Trojans look to be trending down.  There’s a lot to be optimistic about this week.  Then riddle me this, why am I irrationally worried about Notre Dame this week?  Everything looks set up for Notre Dame to have another big win over rival USC tomorrow.  Something has me worried, though.  Am I just a broken fan right now, or should Notre Dame be on upset watch?

Since I’ve already confessed to you all I am worried about this week, let’s jump right into what exactly has me concerned.

What Worries Me This Week

USC’s speedy wide receivers.  This one is the most obvious.  USC has some dudes at wide receiver.  There is no other way to put it.  If there is one position where we would all trade players with USC without thinking, it’s wide receiver.  And our wide receivers are pretty damn good in their own right.  USC has big, athletic, fast receivers who can – and will – win jump balls and can get behind a defense if someone lets them.

Last year Notre Dame played scared of the USC receivers and gave them an insane cushion that JT Daniels took advantage of in the first half.  Clark Lea adjusted eventually, and USC slowed down.  I don’t think Lea should have his guys play too much man coverage because that is what USC wants.  Notre Dame’s secondary isn’t deep enough right now for that.  They shouldn’t play 10 yards off of the line of scrimmage either, though.

It will be a balancing act for Lea this week in terms of trying to mix coverages and confuse Kedon Slovis while not putting his corners in tough spots.  The one way USC stays in the game is with its wide receivers.

Notre Dame being a double-digit favorite over USC.  Call me paranoid, but I just don’t feel comfortable with Notre Dame being a double-digit favorite over USC. Yeah, they aren’t that good, and their head coach is kinda terrible, but it’s a rivalry game, and despite their record, they have the talent to hang with Notre Dame.  This is a veteran Notre Dame team that should be able to remain focused and not overlook USC this week, but you never know.

I would feel better if Notre Dame were like a 6-7 point favorite and they could play the disrespect card all week.  Instead, they’ve heard most of the week that they should beat USC easily – at least from those outside of the Gug.  I dunno, I just don’t feel comfortable when Notre Dame is this big of a favorite against a rival with the level of talent that USC has.

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Notre Dame’s vertical passing game – again.  Notre Dame pushed the ball downfield more against Bowling Green, but it was Bowling Green after all.  We need to see it against a team like USC to say for sure that Notre Dame is progressing in this area.  Look, this is a game tailormade for Ian Book to make a statement.  USC is okay on defense, but they aren’t great.  There are matchups that he can exploit.  Will he?  I don’t know.

I would love nothing more than to see Ian Book light up USC for 300+ yards and 4 TDs, but I don’t know that he will.  He struggled against USC for a half last year before he started slinging it in the 2nd half.  If we get the Ian Book from the 2nd half of that game from the jump tomorrow, Notre Dame is going to be just fine, and all of my concerns will be overblown.

Special teams.  Just kick the ball out of bounds on kickoffs and call it a day.  USC kick returner Velus Jones Jr is a bad man.  Just don’t kick it to him.  This is the kind of game where USC needs a big special teams play to be in the game – similar to how we needed one in 2005.  So make it impossible for that to happen by not giving them a chance.

What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week

USC’s offensive line. If Kedon Slovis doesn’t get the ball out quick, he will be under pressure.  USC’s offensive line is okay, but it’s not one that should be able to hold up against Notre Dame’s pass rush.  Slovis can negate some of that if he gets the ball out quick like Daniels did last year.  If he isn’t able to, Notre Dame’s defensive line is going to have an opportunity for some sacks this week.  I do slightly worry that Slovis will be able to get the ball out quick, but when he doesn’t, the Notre Dame pass rush should get home.

USC getting Kedon Slovis back.  I am not too concerned with USC getting their 3-star true freshman quarterback for this game.  He’s got weapons, sure, but he is also a true freshman making a start on the road against a top 10 team.  USC has just not been good away from home in recent years, and this year is no different.  In Slovis’s only start on the road, he threw three interceptions against BYU.  He did light up Stanford at home, but we’re learning that Stanford isn’t very good this year.

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Notre Dame’s pass rush should be able to harass a freshman starting on the road into some mistakes.  Hopefully, the Notre Dame crowd makes some noise and helps in that matter, but I’m not exactly holding my breath on that one.

The weather.  Oh my God, did you hear it’s going to be freezing in South Bend this weekend?!?  It’s not.  But if you read some reports, it sure sounds like it will be.  Temps for kickoff will probably be in the high 40’s, and while that’s a bit unseasonably cold, it’s not freezing.  I don’t think the weather is going to impact the outcome of this game one way or another.  Sure, it’ll be colder than USC is used to, but this isn’t like when Florida State visited last November, and it was downright frigid on the sidelines.

Players I’m Watching

  • Jafar Armstrong – How much will he play?  Will he be a decoy? Will he get a ton of touches?  It’ll be interesting to watch.
  • Julian Okwara – Notre Dame needs the Julian Okwara who played against UVA this weekend to terrorize Slovis this weekend.  He doesn’t need to have multiple sacks again, but he needs to force Slovis into some mistakes.
  • TaRiq Bracy – He got benched in LA last year against this same group of wide receivers.  He’s been holding his own this year including keeping up with UGA’s receivers.  He’ll get a chance for payback this weekend.
  • Kyle Hamilton – Greg is telling anyone who will listen that Hamilton has a national breakout game.  And it makes sense.  Hamilton is going to be used all over the field, and he could easily get his hands on another interception (or two).
  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – He could be a liability this week if Notre Dame asks him to do too much in coverage. You all know I love me some JOK, but I am a little concerned that he gets asked to do too much.
  • Michael Young – Can Notre Dame get him going?  He’s been back for two weeks so far but has not seen many targets and hasn’t had a big impact yet.  Is this the week he has his 2019 breakout performance?

Prediction Time

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I am not nearly as confident as most Notre Dame fans about this game.  It does feel a bit like a role reversal from the 2009 game in a way, though.  USC comes in with a lot of great skill position players but no offensive line and a likely lame-duck coaching staff.  They have the firepower to not only make this interesting but to make it miserable for Notre Dame fans.

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Similarly to how USC ended up holding on against the Irish in 2009 (thanks in part to some poor clock management from Charlies Weis), though I think Notre Dame hangs on and wins much less impressively thank Notre Dame fans are hoping for. Notre Dame fans want to see a repeat of 2017 when the Irish stomped the Trojans 49-14.  I’d love to see that happen again and would love nothing more than to be wrong, but I have the feeling that this one will be close in the end.

Notre Dame 31, USC 27

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60 comments

  1. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

    Pedro, I can’t say if Book was “outplayed” by a freshman or not. Slovis is pretty good, but the scoreboard has to mean something, doesn’t it? Who used to say “stats are for losers” anyway? What I can say is that Georgia’s “Mr. Elite” quarterback just threw more interceptions in ONE GAME vs. an average (at best) opponent than Book has thrown the ENTIRE YEAR! Why don’t all you critics think that over for awhile? Ian Book has two losses as a starter in TWO years. That’s half what Georgia has over the same period. HALF, Pedro.
    At least we can say that only elite teams like Clemson and Georgia can find a way to beat Ian Book’s Irish teams. The same sure can’t be said for Georgia. So maybe Ian isn’t so bad as you guys want to make him.

    Of course, just as some of you critics could have thrown 5 touchdown passes against Bowling Green, I think you can imagine what my confidence level is in your unquestioned ability to lead the Irish to a 17-2 record as a starter at the University of Notre Dame du Lac. Why don’t you guys walk on next year (if you can get admitted) and prove your superior skills at the QB position?

    BGC ’77 ’82

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    1. Pedro 4 months ago

      Point taken Bruce. Book has avoided mistakes, no doubt. And that is a key to all the wins. You would concede, however, that in this game he missed plenty of open guys (hence the lower completion percentage). My larger point is that the formula of just playing to win might not be enough this year, given the weak schedules of some of the top teams. ND either needs to look very impressive offensively the rest of the way, or have many of the top teams incur 2 losses. This is a year for style points, unfortunate as that reality might be.

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

        Book wasn’t at his best Pedro, that’s for sure. Neither were the receivers…they dropped three or four good passes. But Doerner, Special Teams, and the running games bailed us out. Champions find a way to win even on an off night, and that’s what happened.
        We won’t make the playoffs this year. We will be in the Cotton Bowl though, at 11-1 or 10-2. But I’ve been predicting, since our Citrus Bowl win over LSU, that we will win it in 2020. And it won’t matter if our sophomore, junior, or senior QB is running the team (if Book returns). It really won’t.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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  2. jeff 4 months ago

    If I were to give out a MVP award for this game most people would say the obvious choice would be the slowest BELL COW ever in Tony Jones jr. And you wouldn’t be wrong in naming him the games MVP. But my choice is field goal kicker Justin Doerer. Clutch night by him for sure.

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    1. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

      The kicker was indeed clutch, Jeff. If he had missed just once, ND was in big trouble!

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

        Jeff, SFR: Agree 100% on Doerer. But Tony Jones did his job too! Can’t find too many others who played as well as those two did though.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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  3. Pedro 4 months ago

    Classic case of Kelly getting a marginal lead and sitting on it. Game plan should have been to continue to be aggressive and put USC away as early as possible. I understand having respect for the receivers, but WAY too much respect for a freshman QB who sat back there all day with 3 man rush. 4 man rush would have produced more sacks.

    Sad truth is that Book was clearly outplayed by a freshman QB making his second start? Book made up for a suspect throwing night with his legs though. Such an odd game where we run for 300 yards but couldn’t score.

    This is a year you need style points, and this type of “air out of the ball” strategy isn’t going to cut it.

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    1. Deafph 4 months ago

      Agree. ND became complacent with the 2 TD lead which allowed them back into the game. Good play calling at the end. Kept the clock running while having success running the ball and giving the defense a rest. Surprised me. I was expecting the usual pass attack where we end up hurting ourselves.

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  4. Ron Burgundy 4 months ago

    Imagine DVR’ing this game while you watch FSU and Nebraska play.

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    1. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

      Is that what Davey boy was doing tonight?!

      Great Plan B for sure!

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  5. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    BS with Burgy aside, this was a problematic showing in the second half. I know we’ll get all the post-game, Sunday-morning QBs on here telling us a win is a win and ND is great. Was that a great performance?! Can anybody honestly say this team could hang with Bama, OK, Ohio St., Clemson?!

    This D is what it is. It’s good but far from great. That was SC’s backup that carved the D up after HT! Stepp tore the Irish a new one, too!

    This team will have a hard time in a Big-6 bowl game, unless they can get a rematch with UGa., unlikely as that is.

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  6. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    What was BK thinking being on the field for the onside kick?!

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    1. Ron Burgundy 4 months ago

      Exercising his god given Plan B rights.

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      1. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

        OK, Burgy, I’ll give you that good one!

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      2. Jeff 4 months ago

        Post of the night

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  7. Jeff 4 months ago

    If SC gets the onside kick I believe they will go down to score a touchdown and win. The Notre Dame defense is gassed

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  8. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    D getting exposed in the second half! Sadly, a good O will always expose the ND D.

    Better recover the onside kick or it’s over!

    Win or lose, this poor second half by ND, plus the defeats by UVa. and UGa., have me wondering whether this team is a top 10 team or not.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 4 months ago

      I’ve come to talk to you again.

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      1. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

        Go smoke your big cigars instead, muncher!

        Stay classy, little man!

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      2. Ron Burgundy 4 months ago

        Why such vitriol?

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      3. Deafph 4 months ago

        The sound of silence.

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  9. Damian 4 months ago

    What is wrong with our D?

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    1. Jeff 4 months ago

      Damien Notre Dame has a good defense but it’s far from being great top tier SEC teams

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      1. Jeff 4 months ago

        There are some teams out there that I feel the Irish would have no chance of beating such as Alabama Clemson Ohio State Oklahoma Wisconsin and probably LSU and Georgia. The offense just isn’t good enough to beat those teams in my opinion

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    2. Michael The Archangel 4 months ago

      ND overcomes their
      “ prevent us from winning D” after scoring –
      and wins. Great game by Jones; enough key plays made by Book. Best game NDs OL played. Great fourth quarter drive by ND to overcome SCs offensive explosion in the fourth quarter. I don’t know why SCs #30 wasn’t taken by ND, but he obviously was someone ND could have benefited from and made his case perfectly clear tonight.

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    3. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

      Jeff,

      The D isn’t near good enough either!

      Sadly, ND would get smoked by the FBS elites.

      At least they can beat FIU, apparently Burgy’s favorite team

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  10. Damian 4 months ago

    Thank you. Now the D just needs to keep them out of the endzone

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  11. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    Just what the good doctor ordered!

    Come on D!

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  12. Damian 4 months ago

    WtF. Seriously. Get it together or we’re going to lose this game

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  13. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    SC has figured out the ND D. The O needs to win this with one long TD drive. Plain and simple!

    GO IRISH!

    Given what UVa. and UGa. seem to really be, those ND victories don’t seem to great now.

    This is a huge game. IF ND loses it, the season could slip away real fast.

    Need to win this, Irish!

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  14. D 4 months ago

    WTF. What is happening. It looks like Frank’s concerns are warranted. If the Irish don’t get it together fast we’re going to lose this game

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  15. Damian 4 months ago

    Concerned they are letting USC hang around. Come on D. Let’s get a stop.

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