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Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. USC

Observer Sports Writers | Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Allan Joseph
Editor-in-Chief

I don’t think even Brian Kelly could have seen this coming in his wildest dreams. But here we are – the Irish are No. 1, and they have one game left. Vanquish USC, and the dream ride continues right on to a final destination of Miami. But don’t expect the 7-4 Trojans to roll over. USC is athletic everywhere, especially with receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. With Lane Kiffin’s job hanging in the balance, the Trojans will play their most inspired football of the season. But the Irish defense will give first-time starting quarterback Max Wittek fits and the running game will grind out a victory in the second half. It’s not a dream anymore. It’s reality – the Irish will be playing for the national championship.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 23, USC 17

Andrew Owens
Assistant Managing Editor

It’s starting to feel like Notre Dame is destined to have an historic season, especially after the top two teams fell last weekend. The Irish have survived close game after close game this year, even when it looked bleak. Why would this weekend be any different? USC might be without Matt Barkley and could be on the verge of firing Lane Kiffin, but this is the Trojans’ Super Bowl. Brian Kelly uses that mantra often when describing opponents preparing to play the Irish, but it is especially true this weekend. The 7-4 Trojans can ruin their archrival’s dreams of winning a national championship, and that alone should be enough of a reason to play inspired football. But this Irish team is on a journey, and the road leads to Miami.
 
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 21, USC 16

Chris Allen
Sports Editor

After months of preseason speculation, weeks and weeks of intense scrutiny and a season consisting of close games and blowouts, it comes down to this. No gray area – if Notre Dame beats USC, it will play in the BCS National Championship game and attempt to cap off one of the great seasons in school history. With that sort of incentive, some may worry about the team crumbling under immense pressure. I’ve seen nothing from the 2012 Irish to suggest such a fate. The USC program is probably one bad loss to Notre Dame away from firing its coach, and the biggest threats – Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Nelson Agholor – will be limited by the unproven backup quarterback getting them the ball. Irish will roll and set off a party from South Bend to South Beach over the next month.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, USC 16

Andrew Gastelum
Associate Sports Editor

And then there was one.
One game to the BCS National Championship game. One game to an undefeated season. One game against a hated rival that would enjoy nothing more than to demolish everything Notre Dame has worked for this entire season. But this Notre Dame team is something special, proved in big road wins against Michigan State and Oklahoma, grinders in Stanford and Pittsburgh and blowouts in Navy and Wake Forest.
Every player on this Irish team knows what is at stake and will play his most inspired football of the season against a team that will be missing its proven leader in Matt Barkley. Notre Dame will head to the national championship in style.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 30, USC 7

Matthew DeFranks
Associate Sports Editor

Notre Dame is one game away from the national championship game and two away from a national title. Think about it. Take a second. Matter of fact, almost no one saw this coming and even less people saw mighty USC’s fall.
Before last week, it looked as if the Trojans could still be a tough game for the Irish. But then Matt Barkley emerged from USC’s loss to UCLA with his arm in a sling, knocking him out for the showdown with No. 1 Notre Dame.
The Trojans still have Marqise Lee and Robert Woods that should worry Notre Dame’s secondary but without a reliable signal caller to get them the ball, the Irish defense should not have too much of an issue with USC.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, USC 17