This is the week the No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1) has been waiting for, the game of the year, the rivalry renewed and on one of the biggest stages Notre Dame has been on in a few years as the No. 11 University of Southern Cal (6-1) comes in to South Bend for a prime time matchup and a potential College Football Playoff elimination game between the two programs.
Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush comes back after missing the North Carolina game with a bum foot and as coach Brian Kelly stated Wimbush is “100 percent” healthy. Wimbush on the season has passed for 783 yards with 6 TDs and 2 INTs and has added 402 rushing yards with 8 TDs to this point.
This will be Wimbush’s biggest game of his career as he goes head to head with USC’s Sam Darnold, who was on the pre season Heisman watch and has been talked about as a potential #1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Darnold has put up some gaudy numbers so far tossing for 2063 yards with a 62.7 completion percentage, 15 TDs but this season is prone to turnovers as he has 9 interceptions so far.
The USC running game is pretty impressive as well and is led by running back Ronald Jones II and his 640 yards, 6.3 YPC average and 8 rushing TDs.
But as we all know this season, the Irish have been beasts running the ball and is led by junior Josh Adams who has amassed 776 yards on 86 carries for a 9.0 YPC average and 5 TD’s but in recent weeks has been slowed by some nagging injuries. Adams should be at full strength come game time and looking for him to make an impact early on. The offense as a whole is averaging over 300 rushing yards per game, the most ever in the Kelly era.
A potential Irish victory hinges on the defense and slowing down the potent USC offense. The defense will be without starting linebacker Greer Martini this week as he recently had surgery on his meniscus and will be back in a week. Defensive stops and turnovers will be important if the Irish look to take down USC.
This test against USC is their first major one of the second half of the season as the final six teams remaining on the schedule have a combined seven losses with four of the size being ranked.
The spread on this game has the Irish favored by 3 1/2 points and in my personal opinion I think it will be a battle throughout. I’m going with a 38-31 Irish victory with the team moving into the top 10 when the new rankings come out. Let’s hope the bright lights of this game doesn’t detract from the task at hand.