USC TROJANS (6-1)
at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (5-1)
Notre Dame Stadium Ė South Bend, IN
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -3.5, Total: 60.5
#13 Notre Dame will be looking to make a statement with a home victory over #11 USC on Saturday.
Both USC and Notre Dame are playing some good football coming into this game, but both teams desperately need to win on Saturday. While both teams are nowhere near the College Football Playoff conversation right now, they each have to be holding out hope that they can inch closer and closer as the season goes on. Only one of them will have one loss after this game, though. Whichever team picks up a second loss on Saturday will have no chance of making it to the CFP. That is why the stakes are so big here, and this also happens to be a rivalry game. With that being the case, expect some serious emotion in this one. Notre Dame is the program that enters this one with some more momentum, as the Fighting Irish have now won-and-covered in four straight games. One of those victories was against Michigan State in East Lansing, which is not an easy place to play. These teams have, however, split victories SU in their past eight meetings. The home team has won four straight games in this series, but the road team had won the previous four. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is the fact that Notre Dame is 48-70 ATS versus teams that average less than 7.5 yards per punt return since 1992.
If USC is going to come away with a win on the road in this game then QB Sam Darnold (2,063 yards, 15 TD, 9 INT) will need to be at his absolute best on Saturday. Notre Dame is a very good football team and Darnold canít afford to be careless with the football against them. He was a lot better with his accuracy against Utah last week, as he threw for 358 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. If he can come through with another performance like that then itís hard to imagine the Trojans exiting South Bend with a loss. And it shouldnít be that hard for him, as heís often throwing to an elite receiver in Deontay Burnett (49 rec, 626 yards, 6 TD). Burnett had eight catches for 99 yards against Utah last week and should be able to be even better here. He is an electric route runner and also has very reliable hands. The Trojans can also run the ball as well as anybody in the country, as RB Ronald Jones (640 yards, 8 TD) is one of the best rushers there is in college football. Look for USC to do its best to establish him early, as it could help take pressure off of Darnold. On defense, the team just needs to make sure it keeps Brandon Wimbush from making big plays with his legs. The Trojans will be able to live with him doing things from the pocket.
Notre Dame blew out North Carolina last game, but this game is not going to be anything like that one. The Trojans have one of the best teams in the country, so the Fighting Irish have to play some great football here. The guy that really needs to come through for them is QB Brandon Wimbush (783 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT). Wimbush is an average passer at best for this Notre Dame team, but he also happens to be an elite runner at the quarterback position. He has rushed for a touchdown in every game this season and has a total of eight on the year. He also has two games with over 100 yards on the ground, which is something the Irish might need from him here. Wimbush has a talented group of skill position players around him, but this team goes as he goes. Another guy that the Irish will lean on to eat up yards on the ground is RB Josh Adams (776 yards, 5 TD). Adams has had a great season for Notre Dame, as he has rushed for over 100 yards in four of the teamís six games. Itíd be big for them if he can get it going here. And on defense, the team needs to be ready to contain Burnett. If the Irish can do that then it might be easier to slow down the USC passing game.