#9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs USC Trojans Game Preview, Prediction


notre dame usc trojans

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs USC Trojans, the Jeweled Shillelagh rivalry, is one unlike any in college football, or even sports in general. It’s not just the storied tradition of this series that sets it apart. You have the intersectionality of it, as it features two teams from completely different parts of the country.

It’s such a big brand name series in college football, that it even makes a brief cameo in the Bruce Willis classic Christmas film “Die Hard.” So without further ado, let’s preview!

USC Trojans at #9/10 Notre Dame

Saturday, Oct. 12 | 7:36 p.m. ET | NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -11

Series history: Notre Dame leads 48-37-5

notre dame usc trojans

USC Trojans Preview (3-2, 2-1):

At the time the decision was made in 2016, many were critical of USC’s decision to not go and try lure a big name, and instead just retain interim coach Clay Helton. Early on, it looked like the right call, but over time, maybe not as much. Helton entered the season with his seat warming up, so he went out and got Graham Harrell to be his new offensive coordinator.

Regardless of who is running it, as the Trojans have had to go through three quarterbacks this season already due to injuries, the air raid system has worked and it’s worked well.

“Explosive offensively obviously,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on a media call yesterday when asked his first impressions of USC.

“The ability to push the ball down the field that’s first and foremost. Probably the best defense that we have faced from the USC trojans since I’ve been here.”

usc song girls cody kessler

“Very good up front, now in a four man front- they can bring pressure so they will be a great challenge for us.”

USC has been up and down so far. They do have a huge win over Utah, but they also a bad loss versus BYU. The QB1 JT Daniels went down with injury for the whole season in week one. QB2 Kedon Slovis missed the last two games due to injury, but will start this one. 

QB3 Matt Fink, who came very close to transferring to Illinois this summer, and went viral online for his post Utah interview performance, has done decently well these past two games. Of course, there’s a noticeable drop-off from Slovis, who is second nationally in completion percentage. 

The match-up to watch though is the Trojan WRs vs. the ND defensive backs.

“I think you start there offensively with the best wide receiving core that we’ll see all year, without question,” said Kelly. “The trio of Pittman, Vaughns, and St. Brown, just a very, very talented group, and they complement each other extremely well.”


“Pittman is explosive. Gets down the field. Big play receiver. Catches everything that’s thrown his way. Vaughns obviously has got great length.”

“It’s a matchup issue. And then St. Brown in the slot is physical, competitive, does all the tough jobs as well.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-1)

The Irish come in to this one fresh off the Bowling Green Massacre; which was the program’s first shutout since 2014. It also featured QB Ian Book’s best game ever statistically. His five touchdown passes in the first half, is a school for TD tosses in a half.

It was a thorough thrashing that was balanced offensively and defensively, between the passing game and running game.

“We were certainly superior in terms of personnel, we’re not going to get too many of those opportunities,” said Kelly yesterday. 

This game could mark the return to RB1 Jafar Armstrong, who’s been out injured since the season opener. They’ll know on Tuesday if he can go. If not, Tony Jones has certainly been doing a solid job, performing well within the role. 

“He did quite a bit last week, so we’re confident we can put him in a situation to see if he can contribute on Saturday.”

Kelly is managing the immediate expectations for Armstrong this weekend.

“He’s a dynamic player; just hasn’t played very much,” said Kelly.

“I don’t know if we can expect him to throw on a cape and play like Superman this weekend. There is going to be a process of coming back, especially at the running back position.”

“You can’t go from not playing for six weeks and have a workload of 50 plays. If we could get 20 plays out of him, that would be terrific. We’ll see how things go this week.”

The timing in the ND schedule worked out pretty well at this juncture. BG was a good, easy tune-up for this one, and then another emotional rivalry showdown to come the following week, at Michigan.

It also provided a bit of a breather after Georgia and Virginia.

Prediction: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31, USC Trojans 14

In the finale to their perfect regular season last year, ND got off to a slow start and fell behind in Los Angeles. They’ll be on their guard to make sure it doesn’t happen again this time around.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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