NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (11-0)
at USC TROJANS (7-4)
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Notre Dame -5.5, Total: 46
No. 1 Notre Dame tries to cap off an undefeated regular season when it visits a USC team missing its top quarterback on Saturday night.
The Trojans will be without starting QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) who will be replaced by freshman Max Wittek (8-for-9, 95 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT). USC has taken nine of the past 10 meetings (7-3 ATS) in this series, but Notre Dame won its last trip to Los Angeles, 20-16 in 2010. The unbeaten Irish are just 2-4 ATS in their past six games, but are 4-1 ATS on the road this year, winning these games by an average score of 32 to 7. Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense (10.1 PPG) and ranks sixth in total defense (288 total YPG).
Can the Irish complete their perfect regular season in Los Angeles? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson is peaking at the right time, scoring three total touchdowns in each of his past three games, while completing 59-of-96 passes for 773 yards, 7 TD and 2 INT. He has thrown just one interception in his five non-home games this season, leading his team to 32.4 PPG outside of South Bend. The Irish have been strong running the football in the past five games too, with 224 rushing YPG. Cierre Wood needed only 11 carries to gain a season-high 150 yards in last week's 38-0 drubbing of Wake Forest. Wood had just five carries for five yards in last year's loss versus USC, but rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries in his lone visit to Los Angeles. The Irish defense has been fierce in all facets, allowing just 92 rushing YPG (5th in nation) and generating 2.8 sacks per game (13th in FBS). They have held four of their past five opponents to less than 70 rushing yards, limiting them to 2.6 yards per carry over this five-game stretch.
USC may not have its starting quarterback, but Wittek is still armed with the best wide receiver duo in the country in Marqise Lee (146 rec. YPG, 2nd in nation) and Robert Woods (721 rec. yds, 10 TD). Lee has piled up more than 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown in each of his past five games, while Woods has dominated Notre Dame in the past two meetings, catching 21 passes for 206 yards and 2 TD. Although the Irish have one of the best rushing defenses in the nation, the Trojans could still find room to run, piling up 397 rushing yards (5.4 YPC) over the past two weeks. Senior Curtis McNeal has taken over the main ball-carrying duty with 324 rushing yards (6.2 YPC) and 2 TD over this stretch. In last year's meeting with the Irish, McNeal galloped for 118 yards on 24 carries (4.9 YPC). Defensively, the Trojans will look to pressure Golson early and often. They rank fourth in the country in sacks (3.8 per game) and fifth among all FBS teams in Tackles For Loss (8.0 per game). But in the past four games, USC has been consistently shredded, allowing 39.0 PPG and 494 total YPG over this stretch. The Trojans will need to force some turnovers to stay in this game, and they are certainly capable of doing that with 17 takeaways over the past six contests.