Notre Dame will look to make it two victories in a row when arch-rival USC travels to South Bend. The Trojans come to Notre Dame amidst turmoil with Steve Sarkisian being relieved of his duties as head coach. The Trojans will need a win to prevent their season from becoming a total disaster, so the Irish can expect a strong effort from their rivals. Notre Dame will be looking to avenge the 49-14 beating USC gave them last year in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The following are the matchups the Irish must control in order to hand the Trojans their second straight loss:
Joe Schmidt versus Tre Madden and Ronald Jones II
Notre Dame captain Joe Schmidt hasn’t brought his A-game in recent weeks but will need it versus the elite rushing attack of the Trojans. USC has a lethal one-two punch at running back in Madden and Jones. The only thing that has been able to slow down the Trojans rushing offense is the lack of commitment to it but with offensive line coach Clay Helton now at the helm you can bet the Trojans will run the ball often. If Schmidt can’t fill the right gaps and the Trojans are able to run for five or more yards consistently it will be bad news for the Irish defense.
KeiVarae Russell versus JuJu Smith-Schuster
Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell said this week he has yet to play at the level he is capable of, he will need to against JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster is one of the best receivers in the country and leads the Trojans in every major receiving category. The Trojan receiver is one of the premier deep threats in the nation so Russell will need to eliminate his big play abilities to make the visitors put long drives together.
Will Fuller versus Adoree’ Jackson
In a matchup of two of the most explosive players in college football Will Fuller will face Adoree’ Jackson. Fuller will need to prove he can make plays with an elite cover corner on him after Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander shut him down. Jackson is a corner fast enough to stick with Fuller downfield with ease so Fuller will have to earn his catches.
C.J. Prosise versus Cameron Smith
With the Trojans prolific rushing attack coming to town it is imperative that C.J. Prosise has a strong game to allow the Irish to achieve balance on offense. Prosise will be seeing a lot of physical inside linebacker Cameron Smith. Smith leads the Trojans with 42 tackles as a freshman. Prosise will need to be prepared for the rigors of rushing the ball over 20 times as well as contributing in the passing game.