For the first time since 2009, both Southern California and Notre Dame enter their storied rivalry game as ranked teams. The contest is packed with College Football Playoff implications for both teams and it should make for an incredible atmosphere under the lights in South Bend.
This is one of the rare occurrences where USC is coming into the game as an underdog. They are coming off a humbling performance where they were able to squeak out a win 28-27 win against Utah. Sitting at 6-1 as the number 13 team in the rankings, this is a must win for USC if they want to make a run for the college football playoff. USC is coming in 6-1, but they have suffered a batch of injuries that are most notably relevant in their front seven. USC will have to face Notre Dame’s top rushing attack without linebacker Porter Gustin and defensive end Rasheem Green.
For Notre Dame this may be the first time in program history they are the most underrated team in the country. However, this the first test of their gauntlet where they will have to play 4 ranked teams over the next 6 weeks. The Fighting Irish are coming off a bye and will be ready to play their biggest game of the season.
USC will need Sam Darnold to have an amazing game. USC QB Sam Darnold entered this 2017 NCAA football season as the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman trophy. However, things have not gone according to plan. USC has had injuries on their offensive line and teams have been able to succumb Darnold with intense pressure.
Darnold hasn’t been terrible by any means this season, even with the increased pressure causing more turnovers (he already has 9 INT on the year, tying his 2016 total). The sophomore has still managed to throw for 2,063 yards and 15 TD in 2017, and is completing passes at a 62.7% clip. USC’s deep receiving corps lead by Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell, Tyler Vaughns, and Tyler Petite should be able to take advantage of the Notre Dame secondary.
The Notre Dame rushing attack is ranked fifth in the nation and it is lead by Josh Adams who has run for 776 yards and 5 touchdowns. Notre Dame has the best offensive line in the country and they will be facing a banged up Trojan front seven. Up front, guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey are poised to push for postseason All-America honors. USC rush defenses gives up 146.1 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. The USC run defense will be short handed after defensive tackle Josh Fatu, who is out with a concussion, was involved in automobile accident. In addition, Rasheem Green will also be a game time decision. The matchup between Notre Dame’s rushing attack and USC’s front seven will likely decide the game.
The USC and Notre Dame game is easily the biggest game on college football’s Saturday slate. Potential number one pick Sam Darnold will have another opportunity to showcase himself on college football’s biggest stage. USC is the Pac-12’s final hope of getting a playoff team, and USC has the players to rise against the pressure. Look for Sam Darnold to have his best performance of the year and remind the country why he is the best player in the entire country. I may be showing a little bit of Pac-12 bias but I think USC wins a close one in South Bend 27-24.