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Staff Predictions: USC vs. Notre Dame

Observer Football Beat Writers | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

By ANDREW GASTELUM

Editor-in-Chief

In the Lane Kiffin era, USC has usually emerged as an enigma coming into its annual showdown with the Irish. Now that Kiffin is gone, what can really be expected from the Trojans?

Nothing, outside of the fact that they will be ready for this under-the-lights showdown against a team they would love to beat and turn around their season.

Notre Dame has been an enigma in itself this season. But coming off a bye week, many are pointing to Notre Dame’s shootout win over Arizona State as the turning point of the season. If the Irish can continue to put up those crooked numbers on the scoreboard, their defense will take care of the rest.

It’s been quite some time since Notre Dame beat USC in South Bend, but expect that streak to end this week.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 34, USC 27

 

By MATTHEW DeFRANKS
Assistant Managing Editor

In the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame, this rivalry game has been close. How close? In three games, the combined score is 60-59, USC.

This season should be no different. The Trojans enter the game with a new pep in their step following a win over Arizona in Ed Orgeron’s USC debut while the Irish are well-rested after a bye week. Orgeron’s presence seemed to reenergize the Trojan offense as they posted 38 points without their best player (Marqise Lee). Their defense is another story, though. In the past two games, they have surrendered 1,120 yards and 93 points.

The Irish looked to come along on offense against Arizona State and should be able to put some points up on the Trojans. The senior class becomes the first one in more than a decade to go 3-1 against Troy with a win. 

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, USC 27

 

By MIKE MONACO
Sports Editor

A 4-2 team versus a 4-2 team. In a rivalry game.

Pick your stat or anecdote to describe USC’s struggles, but this game will be much closer than some think. USC has a stable of talented playmakers on offense and a defense that – though it struggled in each of the past two weeks – allowed an average of 11 points through the first four games.

Say what you want about the coaching change, but Brian Kelly is preparing for the Trojans as if they’re still coached by Lane Kiffin. And in order to top Troy, Kelly’s Irish will need to ride the opportunistic and playmaking defense that showed up in the second half against Arizona State. I still don’t think Notre Dame’s offense is strong enough to carry the team to a victory against an opponent like this. So the defense will need to rise to the occasion and force the sacks, fumbles and interceptions that spurred the win over the Sun Devils.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, USC 20

 

By JOSEPH MONARDO
Associate Sports Editor

The national-title implications that have accompanied this matchup in recent years are absent, but USC … in Notre Dame Stadium … under the lights. I mean, come on. Pretty darn exciting. 

Beyond that, each team still has plenty to gain Saturday. It feels like USC is in the pits, but the Trojans only have two losses. They have posted 79 points over the past two contests and will receive a significant boost if preseason Heisman candidate Marquise Lee returns from his knee injury to face the Irish.  

But Lee is questionable and the odds don’t favor Orgeron getting his second win. Arizona State and Arizona slashed the Trojans for 93 points in consecutive weeks, and the Irish offense seems to have found its groove before the bye week. Maybe it won’t be an instant classic, but the Irish will rule the day in the high-profile pairing. 

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, USC 20

 

By JACK HEFFERON
Sports Writer

 

Notre Dame is at a crossroads in its schedule. On one hand, the Irish have yet to turn in a complete performance through six chances. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be much standing in the way of them  taking a 9-2 record to Palo Alto for Thanksgiving.

 That comes to a head when they welcome back the Trojans this weekend, who haven’t lost in South Bend since the Davie administration. Ed Orgeron is still an unknown, but has been described as “the opposite of Lane Kiffin” – something that should scare Irish fans everywhere. 

The game’s real X-factor is Marqise Lee, who is capable of gashing the Irish if he plays.  Regardless though, I think Notre Dame stays true to its form over the last two  seasons, doing just enough to grab the win and keep the Jeweled Shillelagh in Indiana for another year.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 34, USC 31