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Observer Staff predicts Notre Dame vs. USC

Aidan Thomas – Sports Editor

Notre Dame’s last two wins at USC came in 2012 and 2018, both propelling the Irish into the postseason. 2012’s win boosted the Irish to the BCS National Championship, while the 2018 victory sealed their spot in the College Football Playoff. In 2022, Notre Dame has the chance to nab a third win in their last five tries on the road versus the Trojans. And while this one can’t send Notre Dame to the playoffs, it can knock USC out of the race, which is almost as sweet. This one is going to be high-scoring, most likely.

USC has a vaunted offense that will be difficult to stop, but its defense is relatively porous and has given up multiple rushing touchdowns in eight of 11 contests. They’ve given up 35+ in four of their last five games, and they face an Irish team that, for all their passing game deficiencies, has posted 35+. So when it comes down to it, here’s my logic. Notre Dame is still unbeaten when the over hits, meaning if its offense can operate at a respectable level (which would be 35+ against USC), the defense is usually good enough to hold off even the best offenses. I like Notre Dame’s odds of holding USC to something around 31-35 points, and the Irish offense doing just enough to topple the Trojans in a satisfying end to the regular season. 

Notre Dame 35, USC 31 

Nate Moller – Senior Sports Writer

Marcus Freeman and Lincoln Riley will have their first showdown this weekend in a highly-anticipated matchup at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Although the Irish have ruined any chance of making the playoffs, they have the chance to ruin top-10 USC’s outside chances of getting in. As someone who has despised USC my whole life, ruining the Trojans’ CFP hopes would be icing on the cake to a season of ups and downs.

USC’s strength lies on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison being a lethal combination. Backup running back Austin Jones also seemingly proved himself as a viable option in last weekend’s win against UCLA where he rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The USC offense is no doubt more explosive than the Irish, but the Irish defense should have the upper hand on the Trojans with the Trojans having given up at least 35 points in four of their last five games. I think this one is close, but ultimately the Trojans have too much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and that’s the difference in this one.

Notre Dame 34, USC 38

Mannion McGinley – Assistant Managing Editor

The game Irish fans have been waiting for this season is finally upon us. While the Irish don’t get much out of winning in terms of where they play or who they play with, it does give them the opportunity to hop back into New Year Six discussions. More importantly, it keeps the Trojans out of playoff discussions which should make every Irish fan happy. That being said, the Irish would need to get there first, and that outcome requires a couple of different things.

No. 1, stopping Caleb Williams. There is no question, USC’s offense is its money maker and Caleb Williams drives the bus. The Irish are going to have to not only get to the quarterback and snag a few sacks but they’re going to have to force turnovers from him. I know what you’re thinking, Williams is a Heisman contender and has a certain capability to run an offense that includes several passing touchdowns and roughly 300 yards a game. While that’s true, the Oklahoma transfer is not perfect. In several games, he has thrown at least one interception and I don’t think it’s out of the question for Ben Morrison and the Irish to force a pick of their own. 

No. 2, if the defense can make that happen, the offense needs to take advantage of it. I said it in the Clemson game and I’ll say it again, the Irish can secure the win if 10-14 points start with the defense or special teams. The back half of that statement though means that if the defense doesn’t convert when they get the ball, the offense has to. Pyne has to be intentional with his passing and the run game needs to be all that it’s been all year. The Irish aren’t so far out of this game. There is no question it’s within reach, it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together properly, and that starts with the defense. 

Notre Dame 38, USC 35

Madeline Ladd – Associate Sports Editor

It is the game the Irish have been gearing up for all year. Notre Dame versus USC rounds out the Irish’s regular season and has the potential to play spoiler to any Trojan playoff dreams. USC has an explosive offense built through the transfer portal and led by Heisman candidate quarterback Caleb Williams and star transfer and Biletnikoff Award finalist Jordan Addison. However, the Trojans have not faced a defense like the No. 15 Irish who will plow into sunny Los Angeles on Saturday night. Notre Dame needs to continue to control the clock and keep the ball away from the USC offense. Star freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison and the solid ND secondary can keep the Trojan stars at bay and will be buoyed by the likely return of senior safety Brandon Joseph.

USC’s run defense is ranked No. 60 in the country. The Irish have faced much better run defenses recently in Clemson, No. 8, and Navy, No. 5. And, we all remember what happened to Clemson. The Trojans are coming off a thrilling but draining victory over cross-town rival UCLA last Saturday night. Can they bounce back and face a tougher Irish team hungry for a final win? The Notre Dame offensive line was recently left off the semi-finalist list for the Joe Moore Award which recognizes the best offensive line in college football.  They’ll have a chip on their shoulders, especially since the USC offensive line was included on the list.

As Sandra Bullock said, “Run The Dang Ball.” This statement, matched with strong defensive pressure and timely completions by Drew Pyne, will bring the Irish the upset on the west coast. A punt block or two wouldn’t hurt, either.

Notre Dame 31, USC 28

Liam Coolican – Associate Sports Editor

Notre Dame has proven time and time again this season that they can play with the best teams in the country, and they’ll have another opportunity this weekend. USC’s playoff dreams are very much alive, but Notre Dame would love nothing more to play spoiler against their bitter rivals. The Irish are playing their best football as of late —excluding the second half against Navy, Notre Dame has outscored opponents 114-27 over its past three games.

One issue the Irish might have is the Trojans’ array of talented skill position players, and Caleb Williams is sixth in the country in passing yards. This could be magnified with Cam Hart questionable for Notre Dame. A week after Benjamin Morrison grabbed three interceptions, the Irish will need another big game from him. But, defense will matter less than offense in this contest, as USC’s defense is not a strength of their team. The Irish offense is on a roll right now and should have another big game in Los Angeles. 

Notre Dame 38, USC 30

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