USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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It’s not often that we pick a game with two unranked teams for BHGP. And other than September non-conference or bowl games, we don’t do the intersectional thing much either. But this is college football’s top inter-sectional rivalry: USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  Both are on the cusp of the AP top 25, so winner gets a national ranking.

USC has won 11 of the last 14. Notre Dame had an 11-game winning streak from 1983-1995.

This rivalry began in 1926, when Knute Rockne became the first Midwestern coach to take a team to the West Coast (Notre Dame won 13-12) and the teams have meet every season since (taking 1943-45 off due to travel restrictions during World War II).

The Golden Down cannot even help the team

The Fighting Irish opened the year with back-to-back losses against South Florida and Michigan, but have responded with four straight wins, including a 31-13 win over then No. 15 Michigan State. The victory over the Spartans was the first in which the Irish held on to the ball. (They were an absolute turnover-machine in the first couple games)

Only two schools have allowed fewer rushing TDs than Notre Dame this year (Alabama and Utah). The Irish have allowed three rushing TDs in 2011 and two were by the quarterback. Over the last 15 games only two running backs have recorded a rushing TD against Notre Dame (Gee Gee Green (what an awesome name), Navy, 2010; Jon Lee, Air Force, 2011).

Junior LB and likely NFL Draft early entry Manti Te’o ranks first among all inside and middle linebackers in the NCAA FBS in sacks per game and only one ILB or MLB is averaging more tackles for loss per game than Te’o (Andrew Jackson, not the guy on the $20 bill, Western Kentucky).

Notre Dame has committed zero turnovers in its last two games (again polar opposite of the first two games), the first time the Irish have had consecutive games without a turnover since Oct. 2009.

It’s a brand new season, but there are still some issues beneath the surface.

Remember, a couple more losses and Brian Kelly is right back on the hot seat.

At 4-2, the Irish are finally starting to live up to the hype, and they are in great shape for a New Year’s Day bowl. This one, and at Stanford are the only two tough games left. Also, an upset alert in their trip to Wake Forest. The rest seem very winnable. So 9-3 or 8-4 looks likely. Which would place them in a slight improvement over 7-5 (and then a bowl win) in 2010.

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USC Synopsis:

The Trojans had an impressive 30-9 win at Cal last Thursday at Pac Bell Park. USC is 5-1 overall, but did get blown out 43-22 at Arizona State. They were trialing by just one late in the third, before their defense collapsed down the stretch, Notre Dame had lost eight straight to USC before beating them 20-16 in L.A. last year.

From Gridiron Goddess:

If USC can win games with the Matt Barkley to Robert Woods play alone, the offense doesn’t look bad. Seriously. In fact, both the QB and the WR set USC records last Saturday afternoon. (in reference to the win over Minnesota) Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns, breaking a record formerly held by Trojan Great Johnnie Morton.

Most Receptions in a  Single Game – USC All-Time

Robert Woods   17   Sat.
Johnnie Morton   15   1993
John Jackson   14   1989
Jeff Simmons   11   1982*
Fred Hill   11   1964
*2 games

(Are you as surprised as I am that Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, etc aren’t on that list?)

After lots of high-scoring shootouts early in the season, Southern Cal won with defense last week forcing five California turnovers and allowed only one touchdown as their offense was having an off night.
Barkley threw touchdown passes to Marqise Lee and Brandon Carswell held to a season-low 195 yards.

After allowing 84 points and 946 yards the previous two games, the Trojans kept Cal (3-3, 0-3) off the scoreboard until late in the third.

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We know you want to click this (SFW) USC Song girls in bikinis at their annual swim event

Prediction to be taken with an entire truckload of salt, not a grain of salt: ND 28, USC 27 (2010-11 prediction record 30-14)

Notre Dame has won eight Associated Press national titles while USC has won five. The Irish have been selected as a national champion by at least one poll in 19 seasons; USC in 17. ND began the season second on the all-time winning percentage list and third in total victories. USC was in eighth and 10th place.

The winner of the game keeps a jeweled shillelagh (presented by the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles), with shamrocks representing Irish victories and ruby Trojan heads standing for USC wins (each is engraved with the year and final score). The original foot-long shillelagh was flown from Ireland by Howard Hughes’ pilot (have you seen “The Aviator?” great biopic!), according to legend, and was introduced in 1952. Yes, the reason I’m over-emphasizing this game’s past here is because the present is kind of blah.

Oddsmakers currently have Notre Dame favored by 8.5-points over USC with the total set at 57.5 points.

For some reason, I’ve had terrible luck picking the Irish in games the past two years; they win when I go against them. They lose when I pick them.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

He’s appeared on live radio all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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