Notre Dame Football Primer: #15 Fighting Irish Travel for Showdown with #5 USC

It is rivalry week throughout the country as the regular nears an end. Notre Dame has controlled this matchup, winning four straight meetings. The Trojans will be favored at home, but Marcus Freeman and the Irish have won 7 of their last 8 games while dominating ranked opponents. Can the Fighting Irish finish strong with nine wins? Fans will find out Saturday Night in a primetime showdown in the Coliseum.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, November 26th at 7:30 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, LA, California
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 50-36-5 all-time against the USC Trojans (Last Meeting 2021: Irish won 31 to 16)
  • Current Odds: USC -5.5
  • Trophy: Jeweled Shillelagh Trophy

USC Details:

  • Conference: Pac-12 (secured spot in championship game)
  • Head Coach: Lincoln Riley
  • 2022 Record: 10-1 (8-1)
  • 2021 Record: 4-8 (3-6)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 0% chance of rain with a high of 75 degrees and low of 51.

USC Storylines:

Lincoln Riley has the Trojans in playoff contention. After leaving Oklahoma, the USC Head Coach filled his roster with a record number of transfers. Several of which were rumored to have been contacted before they even entered the transfer portal.

Nevertheless, it appears the rivalry is back between Notre Dame and Southern California. Both teams are now ranked inside the top-15 and have recruiting momentum off the field. This will be the first meeting between Marcus Freeman and Lincoln Riley in what looks to be the rekindling of a historic matchup.

The USC Offense is led by quarterback Caleb Williams. This fall, Williams has 250 attempts for 385 yards (65%) with 33 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and 20 sacks taken. On the ground he has 88 attempts for 316 yards (4 yards per carry) with 7 rushing scores. The top receivers for the Trojans are Jordan Addison and Tahj Washington.

Through 11 games, Addison has 51 catches for 765 yards and 8 touchdowns, while Washington has 36 receptions for 549 yards with 4 scores. USC’s rushing attack is led by running back Travis Dye who has 145 attempts for 884 yards (6 yards per carry) and 9 rushing touchdowns.

Notre Dame Storylines:

The Fighting Irish have a major opportunity on Saturday. After starting off 0-2, Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame have won 8 of their last 9 games. The Irish dominated, currently ranked #18 North Carolina and #7 Clemson during that stretch. USC will present one of the biggest challenges of the season this weekend. The Trojans are loaded on the offensive side of the ball, starting with quarterback Caleb Wiliams.

However, Williams is not the only Heisman candidate the Irish have faced. Notre Dame was able to slow down both CJ Stroud and Drake Maye earlier this fall.

Notre Dame must control the trenches. Last week the offense rushed for 281 yards against Boston College and for 263 yards facing Clemson a few weeks prior. The Trojans want to play a west coast style of offense, but the key to an Irish victory will be to control the clock and run the football. Drew Pyne went 13 for 25 last week with 1 passing touchdown. This week he must secure the football and make several key throws.

Al Golden’s Defense faces a major test on the road. Luckily, with Notre Dame’s strength of schedule, they have faced high-powered offense like #2 Ohio State and #18 North Carolina. The pass rush and secondary will be vital to slowing down the USC Trojans. Last week, the Fighting Irish tallied 4 sacks, alongside 5 forced turnovers.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. USC Defense: The Notre Dame Offense is averaging 380 yards per matchup, while the USC Defense is allowing 405 yards per game. The Trojans have given up a lot of points this fall, which is typical for the offense-oriented west coast programs. Meanwhile, the Irish Offense is headlined by a strong rushing attack.

Notre Dame has the advantage in this matchup, but Drew Pyne must play one of the best games of his career if the Irish want a victory.

Advantage: Notre Dame

USC Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The USC Offense is averaging 513 yards per contest, while the Notre Dame Defense is allowing 318 yards per matchup. Al Golden has already faced offenses under Ryan Day and Mack Brown, now he will be battling against Lincoln Riley.

The Irish have their work cut out for them once again, but so do the Trojans. USC has not faced a defense as good as Notre Dame all year. This matchup is a tie.

Advantage: Tie

Special Teams: Notre Dame’s kicker Blake Grupe is 13 for 18, with his longest make coming at 47-yards. While USC’s kicker Denis Lynch is 12 for 18, with his longest make coming at 49-yards.

Advantage: Notre Dame

My Prediction:

If this game was being played in South Bend, I would not give the Trojans a chance with the environment and weather. But this time around the Irish will be playing in the warm weather of Los Angeles and I still believe they will get the victory.

Yes, USC is ranked higher, and they enter 10-1, but who have they played? Notre Dame has played a tougher schedule all season and faced offense like Ohio State, North Carolina, and Clemson. I am sure the USC fans will have the Coliseum rocking like they only do once every ten years when the Trojans are highly ranked, and Notre Dame is coming to town.

Lincoln Riley’s team will score points led by Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison, but I do not believe that they can match the physicality and overall cohesiveness that the Fighting Irish will show them Saturday. Notre Dame has played numerous teams this season to prepare them for this matchup on Saturday Night, and I believe they will punch the Trojans in the mouth led by Logan Diggs and Audric Estime.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38 USC 28

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  1. I agree, David. Rockne was 3-1-2 in his first year, but then had successive undefeated seasons with more than 6 games.
    Holtz was 5-6 his first (though hardly a first year coach). His record for the next 10 years is as good as the greats at ND. Take out 1986 and another outlier and he’s in the 800’s.
    BUT GUYS, Coach Freeman is no longer a first year coach. “Let them earn their white hairs” Wisdom tells us.

    BGC 77 82

    1. So….this is his 2nd year?
      That can only mean one thing: Freeman is from Venus.
      I knew there was something about that guy!!

  2. ND 38 USC 31
    ND finishes w/ a late TD and little time left on the clock
    ND has a monster run game and Morrison picks off a pass late

  3. Btw, I’ve been watching the epic NATIONAL rivalry between ND and USC since 1972 (ouch). I missed seeing the Green Jersey game by 1 year. My frosh year was the epic Joe Montana spoiled comeback in LA. We didn’t fare well vs USC in my 4 years, but I still have a pic of myself with 3 USC Song Girls taken down on field at halftime.
    I’ve probably seen about at least 12, maybe 15 USC games overall.

    This is a truly unique and important rivalry that I treasure. The only NATIONAL not regional rivalry. Its important for recruiting, its important for SOS and rankings, its important for its history and tradition, its important to truly preserve that NATIONAL Independent schedule we value. I don’t know how the B10 move is going to affect this yearly rivalry, but I sure hope the powers that be understand and are doing everything possible to preserve this game annually. I fear the great ND rivalries are being systematically extinguished by the P5 purposely to squeeze ND in a power play. I sure hope this rivalry is not a casualty.

    1. If ND was in the hunt, it might be worth caring.
      But they aren’t. Because they lost to Marshall and Stanford.

      Besides…now that Kelly isn’t here, what point is there to any of this anyway?

  4. Let’s not start handing out extensions too quickly after a USC game. Last time ND did that after the 05 Bush Push game, it didn’t go so well in the long run.

    I agree with most of the article. RUN, RUN, RUN. Control clock. Get out to early lead and limit possessions. Estime and Mayer each get 15-20 touches. And note to ND DBs>>>TURN AROUND AND LOOK FOR THE BALL! You can’t knock a pass away if you don’t know where the ball is. That drives me nuts.


  5. If ND can make a competitive game of this, the Freeman gamble will have achieved great progress after one season.
    If Freeman could pull off a win, he deserves an extension. And a nice bonus for exorcising a fucking demon.

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