The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



The Observer predicts Notre Dame vs. USC

| Friday, October 13, 2023

Ryan Vigilante
Irish junior running back Audric Estimé breaks free during Notre Dame’s 38-27 loss to USC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 26, 2022.

José Sánchez Córdova, Assistant Managing Editor

As much as I want to be a student and a fan and say that Notre Dame will regain its early season form this weekend and beat rival USC, I can’t really bring myself to do it. There is a world where the Irish offense finally clicks again with a fully healthy Jayden Thomas and Jaden Greathouse thriving against a subpar USC defense. It’s also possible the Irish defense rises to the occasion like it did for 59 minutes against Ohio State and contains Heisman winner Caleb Williams. But the harsh reality is that not much is going well for the Irish right now. They are one incredible Sam Hartman scramble away from three consecutive losses after a 4-0 start to the year. This weekend will be their eighth consecutive Saturday with a game, and fatigue already proved to be a factor against Louisville. Notre Dame’s anemic offense will need to put a lot of points to beat USC. I don’t think it happens. It’ll mostly be close, but a late USC score will put the game out of reach.

USC 38, Notre Dame 24

Andrew McGuinness, Sports Editor

This seems like the worst possible matchup for Notre Dame right now. A solid Irish defense is seemingly bound to be picked apart by Caleb Williams because that’s what he does to everybody. The sluggish offense seems ill-equipped to take advantage of a sketchy USC secondary. Expect the Irish to re-establish the ground game, both to mask its lack of dependable receivers and to keep the ball away from Williams. This should be a big game for junior running back Audric Estimé and company regardless of how everything else plays out. If not, something terrible has gone wrong. Notre Dame will hang around for most of the night, but the team simply doesn’t have the necessary firepower to take down the Trojans.

USC 35, Notre Dame 28.

J.J. Post, Associate Sports Editor

Third-century Chinese legalist philosophy book Han Feizi tells the story of a man who claims to sell both a spear that can pierce anything and a shield that can be pierced by nothing. It’s one of the earliest known pieces of literature proposing the well-known paradox of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Saturday’s game presents a new twist on the classic paradox. What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? Notre Dame’s offense has been anemic the past three weeks, averaging just under 20 points a game. Alex Grinch’s USC defense, though, remains equally porous. Caleb Williams will all but certainly get his. Will Notre Dame’s offense be able to dig deep after three straight weeks of primetime struggles and match pace? 

The pessimist in me says no, but rain in the forecast for Saturday makes me think the ground game could be a factor. The Irish ran all over Clemson en route to a massive spoiler win under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium last year. I trust Vegas’ vision that a similar victory could be in the cards this week.

Notre Dame 38, USC 35

Emily DeFazio, Associate Sports Editor

Any stock I put in my predictions died with the hope of a one-loss season last week in Louisville. This team was supposed to enter this week with their heads held high. It put up a good show against Ohio State despite the loss and should have notched two consecutive road wins in enemy territory. Now, coming off of a depressing loss against the Cardinals, a top-25 opponent — not to mention a rival — is one of the worst-case scenarios for the demoralized Irish. However, it seems that sometimes, when the moment calls for it, Notre Dame somehow pulls off a win while projected as a solid underdog. Expect Estimé to have his name in the spotlight again paired with some statement catches from Mitchell Evans to give the offense some momentum against the weaker Trojans defense, maybe in the form of an early first-quarter touchdown. If the Irish can rally and shut down quarterback Caleb Williams as much as possible — using the weather and crowd to their advantage while defeating their second enemy on the field (unnecessary penalties) — the Irish may just pull off a nail-biting, rebound win to set them up for the back half of the season.

Notre Dame 31, USC 28

Madeline Ladd, Associate Sports Editor

This is a tough one. The Irish were embarrassed last week by Louisville, coming out flat, uninspired and unprepared. An ineffective offense and an abysmal performance by Sam Hartman contributed to the chaos of the game. Despite a solid effort from the defense, they were unable to keep the Louisville dam from bursting in the second half. Notre Dame’s exhaustion from its grueling schedule was evident last weekend, but there is no break just yet. With playoff dreams crushed, the best the Irish can do this weekend is play spoiler to No. 10 USC and win back the Jeweled Shillelagh.  

The glimmer of hope for this weekend is the Trojans’ weak defense, ranked 109th in the nation. This is also truly the USC’s first test of the season against a top opponent. If Marcus Freeman can get his team’s mindset right and make smarter in-game decisions while the Irish get the offense going, avoid penalties and keep Caleb Wiliams under control, they have a chance. Following true Notre Dame fashion of taking us on a roller coaster ride of a season, I think they fight to win the game and make the students’ fall break more enjoyable.

Notre Dame 38, USC 31

Matthew Crow, Associate Sports Editor

The lead-up to Saturday feels a lot like it did for last year’s Clemson game, when the Irish surprisingly dominated the Tigers at home after having squandered most of their preseason hype. Notre Dame has the potential to turn its season around in the same way against USC.

The Trojans’ lackluster defense provides the Irish offense with a clear opportunity to snap out of their three-game haze. And USC’s Caleb Williams-led offense, while certainly impressive, has not matched up with a unit anywhere near as skilled as Notre Dame’s. USC has a clear edge if the game turns into a shootout. But with the crowd — and the forecasts for rain — on their side, the Irish will grind out a narrow win and regain a lot of positive energy for a program that has lacked it since the Louisville game.

Notre Dame 27, USC 24.

Tom Zwiller, Senior Sports Writer

Last week I wrote, “And this Louisville team should not be ranked.” That sentence is one I want back as Louisville made Notre Dame (and myself) look completely foolish for 30 minutes last week. 

A 5-3 start heading into the bye would absolutely be a disappointment. Whether you are looking at it from the start of the season, or with 2:46 left in the Ohio State game. 

Notre Dame still has a narrow path to victory, and this game might be the one that saves its season. 

The USC defense obviously is poor. The six previous writers should have hit that point home already. I do think defensive lineman Bear Alexander can limit a lot of what the Irish want to do. But if you can’t score against this defense, who are you going to score against? 

Notre Dame’s defense has its work cut out for it. I think that it can limit Williams temporarily, but he will break through. The awful weather should help the Irish defense.

Call it blind optimism, call it trusting Vegas. Give me the Irish.

Notre Dame 31, USC 28

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About Observer Sports Staff

Contact Observer