Notre Dame QB’s: Tommy Rees has started all 6 games of the season so far with a 51.7 completion percentage for 1,494 yards 13 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. However, 2 of his interceptions have gone for touchdowns and it has happened over the course in the last two games for the Irish. Andrew Hendrix has appeared periodically for Notre Dame this season with 1 completion for 9 yards on 6 attempts. He has also rushed 6 times for 12 yards and has been used in cases of short yardage.
Notre Dame QB’s vs. USC Pass Defense: The Trojans are ranked 69th in pass defense and have allowed 233.2 passing yards a game this season in 6 games. They are allowing opposing players to complete 56.8 percent of their passes and have allowed 10 touchdowns and have 7 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown) this season. The USC secondary had a decent amount of losses coming into the season with the notable loss being TJ McDonald. If Tommy Rees avoids the turnovers and spreads the ball around, then the Irish can win easily on the strength of the receiving unit that has been making great plays all season. Rees also needs to be able to complete his passes and avoid having many incompletions as well.
USC QB’s: The Trojans lost all-time passing leader Matt Barkley to the NFL after a 4 year career where he passes for more than 12,000 yards in his career. Replacing him was Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Wittek had started against the Irish last season and thrown a couple of interceptions in the home loss to the Irish. The Trojans didn’t have a clear starter going into this season, but now Cody Kessler has taken over in the starting job. Cody Kessler has appeared in all 6 games this season and has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,129 yards with 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Max Wittek has appeared in 3 games with 117 passing yards on a 50 percent completion rate with 1 interception
USC QB’s vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The Irish are ranked 89th in pass defense this season and are allowing 252.2 yards over 6 games. Opposing teams have been able to complete 60 percent of their passes and the Irish have allowed 13 passing touchdowns and have 5 interceptions (3 returned for touchdowns). The Irish may or may not have to account for Marqise Lee in the passing game, who hopes to be return for the game against Notre Dame. Lee missed the Trojans win over Arizona last Thursday due to injury. Regardless, the Irish secondary has to account for other receivers as well and also contain Cody Kessler in the passing game. While Kessler has a long rushing play of 34 yards, the Irish won’t have to worry about a true dual-threat quarterback, but should still not allow Kessler to scramble for extra yardage.
Notre Dame RB’s: The Irish come in with the 96th ranked rushing offense that is led by George Atkinson III who has 323 rushing yards on 56 attempts. He is averaging 5.8 yards per rush and has 2 rushing touchdowns. Cam McDaniel has 259 rushing yards on 63 attempts and has a 4.1 yard average with 2 rushing touchdowns. Amir Carlisle has 178 rushing yards on 38 carries for a 4.7 average. Tarean Folston has 69 rushing yards on 11 carries with a 6.3 yard average.
Notre Dame RB’s vs. USC Rush Defense: The Trojans have been strong against the run this season with the 15th ranked rush defense, they are allowing opponents to average 3.7 yards per rush and have allowed 5 touchdowns and 107.2 rushing yards per game. The Irish had a strong game on the ground against Oklahoma and Cam McDaniel was solid against Arizona St. with strong runs. Despite losing Nick Perry to the NFL, the front four of the Trojans has been strong, but they allowed 261 rushing yards to Arizona St. after allowing a combined 237 rushing yards over the previous 4 games. The Irish will need to able to run on USC’s defense to keep balance, and they have faced stronger stronger run defenses such as the 1st ranked run defense Michigan St. this season.
USC RB’s: Tre Madden has been the top rusher for the Trojans, who come in with the 39th ranked rushing offense that averages 200 yards per game. Tre Madden has 611 rushing yards on 115 carries for a 5.3 yard average and 3 rushing touchdowns. In addition he has 13 catches for 198 yards with a 15.2 yard average and 4 receiving touchdowns. Justin Davis has 349 rushing yards on 51 attempts with an average of 6.8 yards per rush with 6 touchdowns. Javorius Allen has 115 rushing yards on 20 attempts for a 5.8 yard average with 2 touchdowns. Silas Redd made his season debut against Arizona with 19 carries for 80 yards with a 4.2 yard average.
USC RB’s vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The Irish have been strong on run defense with the 23rd ranked run defense that has allowed 3 rushing touchdowns, 3.8 yards per rush, and 122.3 yards per game. Tre Madden is the main ball carrier and looks to be another great running back in an area that USC has been historically great at. Silas Redd will likely see more carries as well after returning from injury. However, accounting for Justin Davis and Javorius Allen still need to be accounted for as well. If the Irish shut Tre Madden down and the rest of the running game, it will be important as well.
Notre Dame WR’s and TE’s: TJ Jones is having a strong final season for the Irish and leads Notre Dame with 481 receiving yards on 33 receptions with a 14.6 yard average and 4 touchdowns. DaVaris Daniels has made many plays as well with 25 catches for 385 yards with a 15.4 yard average and 4 touchdowns as well. Troy Niklas continues the legacy of Tight End U for Notre Dame with 14 catches for 250 yards for 4 touchdowns and 17.9 yards per catch. Chris Brown has 7 catches for 125 yards (17.9 yard average), Corey Robinson has 4 catches for 66 yards (16.5 yard average), and William Fuller has 2 receptions for 48 yards (24 yard average). Ben Koyack had his first career touchdown on his only reception for 19 yards against Arizona St. and CJ Prosise has 4 catches for 34 yards with an 8.5 yard average.
Notre Dame WR’s vs. USC DB’s: The Trojans are ranked 69th in pass defense, but have allowed more than 350 passing yards in both of the last two games and 7 total touchdown passes in that same 2 game span. The receiving unit that USC will face is one of the best they will face all season that is deep and has strong players all around. If Tommy Rees avoids turnovers and gets the ball to his receivers, it can mean many big plays.
Edge: Notre Dame
USC WR’s: The Trojans had one of the best receivers in the nation return this season in Marqise Lee, he has 30 catches for 385 yards and 1 touchdown on a 12.8 yard average. His numbers may be down from last season, but he has missed 1 game so far with injury and may or may not be available to play against the Irish. Regardless, he is the best player on the team with 2 back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in his career. Nelson Agholor has 18 catches for 353 yards with a 19.6 yard average and 2 touchdowns. Tight Ends Xavier Grimble has 10 receptions for 127 yards (12.7 yard average) with 1 touchdown and Randall Telfer has 4 catches for 57 yards with a 14.2 yard average.
USC WR’s vs. Notre Dame DB’s: Regardless of if Marqise Lee is going to be ready or not to return against the Irish, the Trojans are still strong here with Nelson Agholor being quite dangerous in the passing game and running back Tre Madden is also a threat in the receiving game for USC. The Irish must be prepared as all three players can catch long passes with the long for each one being 80, 62, and 63 yards for Lee, Agholor, and Madden. The Irish can shut them down, but a lot of that also depends on other areas of the team as well. The good thing is, is that the main focus on a few players will help in terms of coverage.
Notre Dame OL: The Irish have done a good job in the pass protection area with 4 sacks allowed on the season and only 8 quarterback hurries allowed. In terms of run blocking they are giving the Irish an average of 4.3 yards per rush and 136.3 yards a rush. The Irish have also allowed 29 tackles for loss. The strength of the unit is the pass blocking that is led by a strong left side of Zach Martin and Chris Watt.
Notre Dame OL vs. USC DL: The Trojans have been very good in getting to the quarterback and in the backfield. The unit has 46 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, and 16 quarterback hurries this season. On top of that, many players have been able to record a tackle for loss or a sack on the stat sheet. The Irish will need to keep Tommy Rees protected and take care of the football as the Trojans have forced 3 fumbles this season too. With the strength of USC being up front and the ability to get into the backfield, it will make for a challenging game that the Irish will need to win in the trenches.
USC OL: The Trojans have been terrific in run blocking with a 200.3 yards per game average and a 4.8 average per rush. However, they have allowed 38 tackles for loss and 13 sacks this season, but have allowed just 5 quarterback hurries. The Trojans have been unable to keep the football well protected with 6 forced fumbles allowed.
USC OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Irish have quite a bit of talent up front with Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. Notre Dame has 28 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 20 quarterback hurries this season. The team is coming off a strong performance against Arizona St. that included many sacks and Prince Shembo registering a 3 sack performance. This is a perfect game for the Irish to build upon the strong effort against Arizona St. and the Irish should be able to get into USC’s backfield and to also pressure Cody Kessler as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame DL: The Irish have one of the more talented defensives lines in the nation and having Sheldon Day back in an expanded role will be beneficial. Louis Nix III has 20 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Stephon Tuitt has 18 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 interception for a touchdown, 7 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Sheldon Day has 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss in 4 games this season while Kona Schwenke has 6 tackles and 1 quarterback hurry. Depth has been a major issue for this unit and having Sheldon Day at full strength will be vital.
Notre Dame DL vs. USC OL: The Trojans have allowed 13 sacks this season and opponents are having little difficulty in getting into the backfield to stop for losses with 38 tackles for loss allowed as well. The Irish were able to get many sacks against Arizona St. with the main focus coming from Stephon Tuitt and Prince Shembo. The Irish should be able to build upon the performance in their previous game and be able to regularly get into USC’s backfield. Avoiding any injuries will be important as well as they can’t afford to lose anyone.
Edge: Notre Dame
USC DL: Up front on defense is one of the best areas on the team for USC with Leonard Williams being tied for first in tackles with 36 and has 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 1 quarterback hurry to go with it. George Uko has 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble while J.R. Tavai has 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and 1 quarterback hurry.
USC DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The Irish have been pretty impressive in pass protection with only 4 sacks allowed this season, but have allowed 29 tackles for loss. Keeping Tommy Rees protected will important along with keeping defenders out of the backfield as USC is quite strong up front. The battle in the trenches will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
Notre Dame LB’s: The Irish have suffered a major loss in this area in the loss of Jarrett Grace for the season. Grace had started the previous 3 games and was having an impressive season where he was particularly strong in coverage for the Irish. He finishes this season with 40 tackles (tied for 1st on the team), 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Carlo Calabrese is the other player that shares that tied lead in tackles at 40 and has 4 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery to go with it. Dan Fox has 36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception for a touchdown, and 1 fumble recovery. Jaylon Smith has 27 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. Prince Shembo has 20 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 8 quarterback hurries. Ishaq Williams has 11 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
Notre Dame LB’s vs. USC: The running game of USC is solid with 4 running backs that are capable of running with the ball. Having 2 tight ends that can catch the ball is also of note in coverage and the Irish not having Jarrett Grace will really hurt in this area, the linebackers are going to need to prevent consistent gains on the ground and be at their best in coverage, which is a mark down without Jarrett Grace in the lineup.
USC LB’s: Hayes Pullard is the other player tied for the lead in tackles with 36, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 5 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Lamar Dawson has 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 1 quarterback hurry. Devon Kennard has has 28 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 5 quarterback hurries, and 1 fumble recovery. Morgan Breslin has 11 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 3 quarterback hurries for the Trojans.
USC LB’s vs. Notre Dame: The Trojans have a matchup nightmare in Troy Niklas to cover, the tight end has been big with the big chunk plays on almost 18 yards a catch. Notre Dame’s running game has been getting better in the last couple of games and the running backs will also give an interesting matchup to a strong USC front seven.
Notre Dame DB’s: The secondary has been a weaker area on defense for the Irish this season as they have allowed many passing touchdowns this season. Bennett Jackson leads all defensive backs in tackles with 35 and has 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception for a touchdown, 2 pass breakups, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Matthias Farley has 25 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups while KeiVarae Russell has 23 tackles and 4 pass breakups. Elijah Shumate has 21 tackles and 1 tackle for loss, while Austin Collinsworth has 13 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries.
Notre Dame DB’s vs. USC WR’s: The status of if Marqise Lee will play is still in question, but the Irish secondary will need to be prepared regardless of if he is ready or not. Nelson Agholor had a strong game against Arizona and gives USC a pair of strong receivers once again this season as USC has been consistent at this area for the last few seasons. Containing both will be important, and while if Lee is out, it helps with the coverage, the Irish will need to be ready and not let USC burn the Irish defensive backfield as Lee and Agholor have caught passes of 80 and 62 yards, respectively.
USC DB’s: Su’a Cravens has 31 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup, and 1 forced fumble for the Trojans while Dion Bailey has 30 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 interactions, and 3 pass breakups. Josh Shaw has 28 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 interception for a touchdown, and 1 pass breakup. Torin Harris has 20 tackles, 1 interception and 5 pass breakups and Demetrius Wright has 23 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
USC DB’s vs. Notre Dame WR’s: The Trojans have a deep receiving unit to cover. TJ Jones has been the best player of the bunch and has been consistent all season long and DaVaris Daniels makes many big players. Tight end Troy Niklas also factors in the equation as well and the Irish have many receivers that can make plays and catch deep passes too.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza is 8 for 11 on field goals with a long of 53 yards, and is 4 of 5 on field goals that are 40 or more yards. Brindza also handles most of the punting duties as he averages 41.5 yards per punt on 21 punts with a long of 55, 2 touchbacks, 9 fair caught, 3 inside the 20, 4 of 50 or more yards. However, one of his punts was blocked earlier this season. Alex Wulfeck also punts as well with a 34 yard average on 6 punts with 1 touchback, 3 fair caught, and 5 inside the 20. Kyle Brindza is averaging 64.2 yards per kickoff and has 20 touchbacks on 34 kickoffs.
USC Kicking Game: Andre Heidari has made 5 of 8 field goals with a long of 52 yards and one attempt was blocked. Kris Albarado is averaging 39.8 yards per punt on 34 punts with a long of 64 yards and has 1 touchback, 8 fair caught, 16 inside the 20, and 3 of 50 or more yards. Andre Heidari handles kickoff duties with a 60.5 yard average on 30 kickoffs with 7 touchbacks and 1 kickoff going out of bounds.
Stronger Unit: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has returned 13 kickoffs for 365 yards with an average of 28.1 yards per return and a long of 50. Cam McDaniel has 5 returns for 83 yards with a long of 22 and a 16.6 yard average. Punt return numbers are certainly up from last season with TJ Jones returning 7 punts for 71 yards with a long of 27 and a 10.1 yard average.
USC Return Game: While his status is still questionable right now, Marqise Lee leads USC in kick return yards with 99 on 5 returns for a 19.8 yard average and a long of 34 yards. Kevon Seymour has 5 returns for 44 yards (8.8 yard average) with a long of 19 yards. Nelson Agholor has 3 returns for 45 yards (15 yard average) with a long of 25 yards. Marqise Lee also returned punts with 8 returns for 46 yards (5.8 yard average) with a long of 18. Nelson Agholor returned 2 punts for 16 yards with an 8 yard average and a long of 14.
Stronger Unit: Notre Dame
Everything: Notre Dame comes in more rested after the first bye week of the season for them, but the loss of Jarrett Grace for the season to injury will be noticed. USC is coming off a close win against Arizona under a new interim coach and hasn’t been too impressive at times times season either. USC has shown that it can either allow a vast number of points or score little on offense. The defense in the last two games in particular with the Trojans defense allowing more than 600 and 500 yards, respectively. The Irish had their best outing in scoring in the win over Arizona St. and the defense made quite a few good plays on top of that. The Irish might struggle to run on the strong run defense of USC, but if Tommy Rees avoids incompletions and turnovers, then passing will be the way to go. The Irish must not fall behind early and need to get things going on offense and make sure the defense doesn’t get worn out from being on the field too much. While certain players statuses are in the air at this point for USC, being prepared is always important against a talented USC team.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, USC 17