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Rivalry Week Staff Predictions: Notre Dame at USC

How does the CC staff see this game going? We share our predictions.

Notre Dame v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images


USC has a chance to avoid having its first losing season since 2000.

For those who remember the Paul Hackett era, this season might bring you flashbacks. Right now, USC is currently playing to not only qualify for a bowl game, but to avoid its first losing season since 2000. In order to do that, it will have to beat a Notre Dame team that’s currently looking to complete its first undefeated season since 2012 and make the College Football Playoff.

Notre Dame brings in a defense that ranks No. 21 in the nation in total defense. USC faces a tall task with the offensive woes that has pledged it this season. This will be the best defense the Trojans have faced since the Utah game back in October. JT Daniels will look to recover from last week’s performance after throwing two ill-advised interceptions in the loss to UCLA. Eyes will be on the true freshman to see how he bounces back and how he handles his first Notre Dame/USC rivalry game. The USC defense on the other hand, will have the task at slowing down the speedy Dexter Williams. USC gave up 289 yards rushing to UCLA running back Joshua Kelley. The biggest question for the Trojans’ defense is can they can get enough pressure to fluster Irish quarterback Ian Book, to disrupt the Notre Dame passing game?

Anything can happen in rivalry games. USC could come in and spoil the Irish hopes in making the College Football Playoff. The Trojans have the talent to do so, however I believe coaching and execution will play a huge role in this game. Those are advantages that belong to Notre Dame. I expect the Irish to grab their first win in the Coliseum since 2012 and move towards the College Football Playoff. But again with rivalry games, you never know.

USC- 24 Notre Dame-45


Coming into the season, the USC Trojans were projected to win the Pac-12 South and maybe even make it to the College Football Playoff. Now, at 5-6, all that optimism has turned very pessimistic on whether or not Clay Helton will remain the head coach for next season. Helton will feel a lot better however, if the Trojans can beat the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

On paper, this should be a blowout win for the Irish. They are currently undefeated, dominating on almost all sides of the ball. Whether that’s offense, defense, special teams, or coaching, the Irish have been unstoppable this season. The Trojans on the other hand have not fared so well, only winning five games on the season, and have to hope for a miracle if they wish to make it to their seventh consecutive bowl game appearance.

On the Trojans’ senior day, JT Daniels will come out as fired as ever, as he will throw two touchdown passes in the first quarter while his defense shuts the Irish out. But the Irish will soon figure out both the Trojans’ offense and defense and finish the rest of the game with ease. The Irish are too much to handle.

The Irish cruise to the College Football Playoff, 35-20


Last season, with Sam Darnold, USC fell to Notre Dame, 49-14. Notre Dame’s defensive line forced Darnold out of the pocket multiple times against a suspect USC line. This season, USC is without Darnold, rather stuck with JT Daniels who struggles with both pressure and turnovers. USC’s offensive line is arguably worse. Notre Dame’s defensive front is more dominant, headlined by Julian Okwara, Jerry Tillery, and Te’von Coney.

In addition to that, Notre Dame’s offense is even more balanced. With Ian Book at quarterback, the Fighting Irish can both pass and run. With just seven starts to his name this season, Book’s passing yardage has eclipsed incumbent Brandon Wimbush’s total from last season by 246 yards (2116>1870). Though the Irish are without headline players Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, and runningback Josh Adams, they rely on speedster Dexter Williams and senior center Sam Mustipher.

With a more sophisticated passing attack this season, the Fighting Irish will run up score against the Trojans. The Trojans will score as well, but struggle with turnovers and poor decisions by Daniels against a fierce Notre Dame rush.

USC is embarrassed. 52-24


USC is not done yet. Trojan fans will get to see how the boys in cardinal and gold handle one of their biggest underdog games in the last few years. I predict that the Trojans will rally around Helton and a chance to play in a bowl game.

The talent both Notre Dame and USC have is among college football’s best, and it will be a physical struggle on both sides of the ball for one team to best the other. While JT Daniels has not had the season he and USC fans thought he would, I predict a touchdown throw, 200+ yards, and no interceptions from a young player who took the loss to UCLA and turned it into a lesson.

Michael Pittman Jr. will shine once again in front of a home crowd, and Aca’Cedric Ware will but up a valiant performance with two touchdowns and rushing for just under 100 yards.

It will be a back and forth lead change the entire game, with USC’s defense stealing the show and stopping Notre Dame in the last minute of the game to secure a victory for their head coach.

USC upsets Notre Dame 24-21


The Trojans vs. the Fighting Irish is one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football. Almost every time the two butt heads, a great game happens. This year is different though. The Irish are in the hunt for the College Football Playoff while the Trojans are just fighting for a spot to play in a bowl game. On paper, this game should be a blow out. Here are a few reasons why it might not be.

The first is that USC has just as much talent as Notre Dame. USC has consistently finished within the top 10 recruiting classes the last few years, so talent isn’t the issue. Secondly, the Trojans playing at home will benefit them. The Clay Helton coached Trojans have a record of 19-2 at home. Lastly, Helton is fighting for his job and the seniors are playing in, potentially, their last game for the program. As a result of this, I think the energy will be up in the locker room pregame and when it’s time to put the pads and go out on to the field, the spirit should and will be there.

Though, even with all this optimism, the bottom line is that Notre Dame is just better. It is ranked No. 21 in the country in total defense. Its quarterback, Ian Book, has 21 total touchdowns to just five interceptions. Irish running back, Dexter Williams, is going up against a defense that gave up 289 yards rushing last week to UCLA speedster Joshua Kelley. Notre Dame will prove to be too much and punch its ticket to the CFP.

Notre Dame 38 USC 17