USC is 6-0 and ranked #10 in this week’s AP poll. They escaped at Arizona last week in triple overtime 43-41. 11-3 a year ago, they took out the Irish in the regular season finale in the Coliseum 38-27.
Now in his second season with the Trojans Lincoln Riley has quickly returned the fabled program to prominence, particularly on the offensive side of the ball,
Defending Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Caleb Williams is leading the nation’s top scoring offense to 51.8 points per-game. Williams has thrown 22 touchdown passes and just 1 interception. And yes, as the Irish learned last season he is a dual threat having run for 6 TDs. Williams has been sacked 11 times.
Catching the ball from Williams is a big group of weapons led by veterans Tahj Washington, (21-456-5 TDs) and Brenden Rice (21-434 and 7 TDs). Those are just two guys. Don’t be surprised if you also hear the names Mario Williams, Zachariah Branch, or Dorian Singer. All three have supplemented the dynamic attack with double digit catches on the year.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Trojans boast a much-improved running attack over a year ago. Marshawn Lloyd, who had been the leading rusher at South Carolina a year ago, transferred after last season and now leads the ground game with 519 yards on 67 carries good for a 7.7 average with 4 TDs. Spelling Lloyd is Senior Austin Jones who has 25 carries for 163 yards and a 6.5 yard per carry average and 4 TDs.
Defensively the Trojans have been hit and miss with emphasis on the “miss”. As in lots of missed tackles, but they have been very good at bringing pressure. 109th in total defense they give up 421 yards per game and they are 76 ranked giving up 27 points per game.
The defensive line has been rebuilt from 2022 and now starts three transfers and they spearhead one of the top ranked sack units in the nation averaging 3.67 per game. Senior Solomon Byrd leads the unit with 4.5 sacks. USC is number one in the nation with an impressive 9.5 tackle’s for loss a game. The Trojan secondary looks to be vulnerable, USC is 89th is pass efficiency defense.
And now the “miss” part. As the season has worn on, the Trojans have been guilty of missing a lot a tackles, including 17 in each of the last two weeks. The Trojans have athletes without a doubt, and they make plays all over the field, but they have not been fundamentally sound.
USC is one of the most penalized teams in the nation at 127th, they have given away 78.67 yards each game. USC has recovered four fumbles and made four interceptions.
Notre Dame, just a few weeks ago was playing solid defense and averaging 6 touchdowns a game with a balanced offense. They looked to be a real matchup problem for USC. ND is still playing solid defense but the offense has bogged down, and while they still have weapons, they will need to regain their footing, and fast if they are going to compete with the Trojans.
The Vegas line is hard to figure considering ND’s performance last two weeks. That said USC has defensive issues and it is logical to expect a different ND team this week. So do I, but I don’t think it will be enough and the bye week can’t come soon enough.
Notre Dame is a 2.5 point favorite, and the over/under is 62.5
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: USC 38 ND 30