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Observer Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. USC

| Friday, October 22, 2021

Notre Dame is rested after a bye week, but so is USC, and the Irish are playing at home for the first time since they lost their 26-game winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium. Can Notre Dame topple the Trojans in this rivalry clash? The Observer Staff makes their picks.

Mannion McGinley — Sports Editor 

While I usually break down some of the opponent’s strengths, USC has proven to be nothing but a wild card this year after their starting QB was injured, so they had a bit of a quarterback competition until that QB got injured, so now we are back to the first starter. They are 1-3 at home but much more successful away. None of it makes any sense, but then again, neither does anything in college football this year. So. 

This week’s prediction is all about the mental game. 

The Irish need their home game mojo back. After almost three full weeks away from Notre Dame Stadium, the USC game is the time and place to reclaim it. And, as my roommate says, (totally un-researched personal opinion) “They play better at night.” While that may be true (and there are hundreds if not thousands of games to compare and analyze) that doesn’t negate the fact that, despite Ted Lasso’s hopes, humans are not goldfish.

The Irish have to appropriately use the momentum from a win in Blacksburg and shed the energy that Cincinnati fans brought to the House that Rockne Built. USC fans are known to bring a competitive atmosphere to Notre Dame Stadium but Irish fan energy should be through the roof though coming off a restful fall break, especially considering the fact that it’s a night game and arguably the most consistently played Irish rivalry as of late. I expect Nov. 2020 Clemson game energy and with the focus from the team, especially from the defense and from the pocket, to be at an all-time high. With all of those pieces in place and the wobbly stance, USC has the Irish will come away with this one. 

Notre Dame 28, USC 17

Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer

After another game day and another heart attack related to Notre Dame Football, the Irish enter a bye week at 5-1 with an eye on their upcoming rivalry game against USC. Their back-to-back primetime clashes with the Trojans and then UNC look far less formidable, with both preseason top-15 teams having fallen outside the rankings. USC is a weird game — before the season, it was the one game I picked Notre Dame to lose. I still think 11-1 is realistic, but USC has been dynamite on the road this season, despite a 1-3 record at home. USC has been far less lethal than expected on the offensive side of the ball, with Kedon Slovis underwhelming.

For the Irish, the defensive key is shutting down Drake London. Meanwhile, the offensive line has to find a way to contain jack-of-all-trades linebacker Drake London and get the run game going. USC is giving up 148 rush yards per game and have allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of their three losses. Kyren Williams — complemented by Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs — need to get going and find holes created by an improving offensive line. If they do that, it’ll take pressure off the messy quarterback situation. It’s a rivalry clash, so throw records out the windows, but I’ll take the Irish in a tight one.

Notre Dame 31, USC 30

Nathaniel Moller — Sports Writer 

Watching last weekend’s game from the press box in Blacksburg was a roller coaster ride, and that seems to be the trend with this year’s team. I’d love to see the Irish come out firing on all cylinders and blow out the Trojans in this one, but I don’t see that happening. Despite their 3-3 record this season, the Trojans still possess a multitude of playmakers on offense. Quarterback Kedon Slovis has been underwhelming so far this season, but he has the talent to tear apart any defense in the country if he limits the number of interceptions that he throws.

He will likely look to wide receiver Drake London, who has been terrific for the Trojans this season with already 800 receiving yards. London should have a favorable matchup against a Notre Dame secondary that has had some issues limiting big plays this season. On the other side of the ball, the Irish offense should have an edge against a Trojan defense that has given up over 40 points in three separate games this season. I expect the Irish to establish a run game early and open up the passing game as the game progresses. Against a sub-par defensive line, the offensive line should be able to provide Jack Coan protection, allowing him to be quarterback for the Irish all game. I anticipate this one being a close game, but the home atmosphere at Notre Dame Stadium will prevent the Trojans from pulling off the upset.

Notre Dame 38, USC 34

Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor

I have a bad feeling about this game. A majority of the student body will likely be away from campus on Gameday, still enjoying their Fall Break and USC will be coming into Notre Dame hungry to take advantage of a team that has just had a 26-game home win streak snapped. USC isn’t looking stellar right now, but I believe that they have a chance to pull off the upset in this one. Notre Dame drops another game at home, this time under the lights.

Notre Dame 21, USC 28 

Colin Capece — Assistant Managing Editor 

I really don’t have a great feeling about this game for the Irish despite coming off a bye week, especially after watching how the coaching staff handled the Virginia Tech game. I could have told you that Jack Coan wasn’t going to last long when he came trotting onto the field to start the game. Despite a complete lack of mobility coupled with slow decision making, a lethal combination for a quarterback according to just about anyone, Brian Kelly doubled down on his pivotal mistake against Cincinnati. Tyler Buchner gave the team a spark, but he showed his inexperience in the fourth quarter with a pair of costly interceptions that almost sunk the Irish for the second week in a row.

There is zero continuity with the Notre Dame offense right now, and Kelly only has himself to blame. The kid from Connecticut is the best quarterback for this team. By default, you know who I’m referring to. Drew Pyne rode the pine against Virginia Tech for no good reason, and you can be damn sure he’ll do the same against USC with Kelly calling the shots. USC has been a mediocre team at best so far this season, but the Trojans always have this game circled on their schedule and will come in ready following their own bye week. They will play fast on the defensive side and are going to blitz whoever is under center.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Irish are going to have to establish their run game to win. If Kyren Williams gets going, this Trojans defense is going to have a hard time stopping him. USC Quarterback Kedon Slovis hasn’t played like the Heisman candidate some thought he could be at the start of the season, and with only one real dangerous receiver to throw to in Drake London, the Irish shouldn’t have a hard time keeping him contained. Notre Dame will control the clock for much of this game and make enough stops to start another home winning streak, but I sure wish we’d put the right guy under center for the rest of the season.

Notre Dame 21, USC 13

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