Staff predictions: USC
Marek Mazurek | Friday, October 20, 2017
Ben Padanilam, Editor-in-Chief:
The win over a top-15 opponent has eluded Brian Kelly and Notre Dame for quite some time.
And it won’t come easily Saturday — Sam Darnold, despite what the numbers indicate this season, is still has an elite arm, and Ronald Jones II is an elite and perhaps underappreciated rushing talent.
But in games where USC has gone down to the wire — Texas, Washington State and Utah — the Trojans have traded scores with their opponents, leading Darnold to force throws and be inefficient.
And the Irish have seemingly followed that formula this season, scoring early and allowing a deep defensive line to disrupt opponents late in games. And it’s a formula that might just get the Irish that elusive win.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 34, USC 31
Marek Mazurek, Assistant Managing Editor:
If you told me at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would enter its game versus USC as the favorite on paper, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But the Irish are the odds-on favorites, at home and USC is battling some key injuries on defense.
Despite that, Brian Kelly and his team have consistently failed to pick up wins in key games like this one. Beating a top-15 opponent requires a complete game from all sides of the ball and coaching staff. The Georgia loss in Week 2 showed the Irish haven’t figured that out yet.
Until Kelly and Notre Dame show they can win versus a top-15 foe, Irish fans should not get their hopes up beyond cautious optimism. In the end, Sam Darnold will outshine Brandon Wimbush in the air.
FINAL SCORE: USC 35, Notre Dame 27
Elizabeth Greason, Sports Editor:
USC will be Notre Dame’s first true test since the team’s one-point loss to Georgia. However, a series of blowout wins have proven the Irish have come a long way since the start of the season and should be ready to go against the Trojans on Saturday.
Assuming Brandon Wimbush and the Notre Dame stable of running backs is as healthy as Brian Kelly claims, the Irish offense should be able to pose a major challenge to the country’s No. 67 defense in USC.
The Irish defense has continued to impress, and while the Trojans will be the first real challenge since the Bulldogs, its ability to force turnovers should be able to hold up, even against the impressive USC receiving corps.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 27, USC 24
Tobias Hoonhout, Associate Sports Editor:
While the 5-1 Irish have looked good so far this season, there’s a caveat — they have beaten all the teams they were supposed to, while losing the one game that was going to be a toss-up.
But now, Notre Dame faces USC as the start to a stretch of four ranked opponents over the final six games of the season.
This game gives Brian Kelly’s team a huge opportunity to make a statement to start the second half of the season. To run the table, the Irish need to start on a strong note, and frankly, this game seems to be happening at the perfect time. The Irish are coming off a bye week of rest and preparation, while the Trojans have struggled of late.
Expect big things from the Irish this weekend.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 38, USC 24
Daniel O’Boyle, Sports Writer:
The Irish have easily taken care of five of the six teams they’ve faced this season, but still lack a real quality win this season, an issue that has plagued Brian Kelly for too many seasons in the past.
There are doubts about Kelly’s ability to earn real trademark wins, but this looks like it could be the perfect opportunity to get one. The performances of Irish opponents so far should give Notre Dame confidence, while USC faces injury issues on the defense and has also struggled out of the gate offensively. If the opportunistic Irish defense can put the offense in good situations early on, that might be enough.
Kelly has his struggles against the best teams, but USC may not be able to play four quarters like one.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, USC 27