One of the best rivalries in college football will kick off for the 93rd time this weekend as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the USC Trojans. Both teams are ranked and USC is still fighting for a shot at the College Football Playoff. We’ll preview the game and go over which side I’ll be backing come Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish got off to a rocky start this season but have now rattled off five straight wins and find themselves 8-3. Notre Dame will not only have the opportunity to beat their rival but to also crush the Trojans' chances of playing in the College Football Playoff.
In order to do so they’ll need a solid game from quarterback Drew Pyne and continued high-level production from Audric Estime. The Fighting Irish running back has rushed for 782 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season and will face off against a USC defense allowing 4.6 yards a carry and an average of 147.2 yards a game.
Drew Pyne has done a solid job this season leading the Notre Dame offense but he will need to protect the ball as the Trojans' defense is forcing an average of 2.2 turnovers a game which is tied for fifth in the country.
Turning the ball over and putting it in Caleb Williams’ hands is a recipe for disaster since the transfer quarterback has the Trojans' offense scoring an average of 42.9 points per game. Williams has thrown for 33 touchdowns this season and only thrown three interceptions.
Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison against this Notre Dame defense allowing only 186.8 passing yards a game will be a highly entertaining battle to watch unfold. This will be the Trojans' second week without running back Travis Dye so it’ll be up to Austin Jones to carry the run game.
The 10-1 Trojans are currently favored by -4.5 points at home and they are my best bet for the game. Despite the turnaround in Notre Dame's season, this USC offense is just too good for them to keep pace with for an entire game. After last week's huge win over UCLA, I think the Trojans enter this week with a ton of confidence.
The last time the Irish played at quarterback of Heisman caliber they allowed 32 points and despite the Irish defense having good numbers, this is no Boston College offense. USC is explosive and doesn’t make mistakes on offense and as good as he has been this year I don’t trust Drew Pyne to match Caleb Williams.
Defensively is where I was hesitant at first to take the Trojans but their ability to create turnovers is convincing. They have 18 takeaways this season and just one takeaway come Saturday could be the difference in a touchdown game vs a field goal game. If USC can force one mistake out of Drew Pyne or come up with a fumble I think they can cover here and ride into the Pac-12 Championship on a high note.