USC-Notre Dame: What To Watch For

Stephen Dunn

Will the Trojans be prepared to take on Notre Dame in a rivalry road game? How will the defense fare after two subpar outings? We examine that and much more in our game preview of USC-Notre Dame.

1. Ed Orgeron Impact

It's no secret Orgeron's fiery passion and enthusiasm on the sidelines had a trickle down effect on the entire team. All of that was evident in USC's 38-31 victory over Arizona on Thursday at The Coliseum. But the honeymoon period is over now. Can USC carry over the same type of intensity it played with against Arizona? Will they be just as focused and motivated on the road in a rivalry game?

2. Offensive Outburst

The Trojans tallied 546 total yards of offense and quarterback Cody Kessler threw for 297 yards - both season highs - against Arizona. The play calling under Clay Helton was much more aggressive as USC scored twice on plays of 60-plus yards in the first quarter alone (a 62-yard strike to Nelson Agholor and a 63-yard pass to Tre Madden). In a road contest in a different environment, how will Helton choose to call the game? Will we see a more conservative approach or will he allow Kessler to take some chances?

More coverage of USC-Notre Dame

3. Defense?

During the first four weeks of the season, Clancy Pendergast's unit arguably carried USC to victory while the offense was still trying to find an identity. Now the roles have reversed. In consecutive weeks, the defense has looked average. The Sun Devils hung 62 points and compiled 612 yards of total offense, while Arizona put up 31 points and 508 yards. Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker, though, was the real surprise, throwing for 363 yards and four touchdowns. In both games, the defense looked winded. This weekend, though, Orgeron plans to rotate more players on that side of the ball. Let's see if that makes a difference.

4. Turnover Battle

The Trojans rank 80th in turnover margin (they are a minus-1 on the year), but Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has thrown six interceptions through six games, four of them coming in the last two weeks. The pressure from USC's defensive front has yielded dividends through six games (18 sacks and 46 tackles for loss), but Notre Dame's offensive line has allowed just four sacks all year. Something has to give.

5. Healthy Stars?

Wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee), linebacker Morgan Breslin (hip) and tailback Tre Madden (hamstring) are all banged up. Lee expects to be 'good to go' at Notre Dame after missing Thursday's game against Arizona, and Breslin and Madden both practiced Wednesday. The Trojans could also receive a boost in the secondary with Anthony Brown slated to return after missing the last five games after hyperextending his knee in the season opener at Hawaii.

USC-Notre Dame kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised live on NBC.

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