Like the Irish, the 3-3 Trojans were idle last week. In their last action they lost at home to Utah 42-26. They own wins over San Jose State, at Washington St and at Colorado. Besides Utah they have lost to Stanford by 14 and at Oregon State by 18. After the loss to Stanford, 6-year head coach Clay Helton was fired.
Donte Williams who was serving as the defensive backs coach is now the interim head coach. He becomes the 5th USC head coach Brian Kelly will have faced during his 12 year tenure.
Strangely enough the Trojans are tied with the Irish for the second longest road win streak in the nation at 8, and it was the Irish that delivered the last road loss. That game was in 2019 when the teams last met and the Irish held on to win, 30-27.
Junior Kedon Slovis, a career 70% passer this year is hitting on 64% with 9 TDs and 5 interceptions. Slovis’s biggest weapon is 6-5 Junior Drake London who is having a monster year with 64 catches 832 yards and 5 TDs. London has a tremendous catch radius and runs outstanding patterns. His reception total is the second highest in the nation. He specializes on precise patterns and finding seams in zones and less on raw speed going deep, but he may be the most talented receiver the Irish will see all year.
Senior Keontay Ingram is the top runner with 419 yards and 3 TDs. The offensive line this year returned 4 of 5 starters from a year ago and they have given up just seven sacks.
The Trojans would much rather pass the ball than run it. They are 11th nationally in passing yards and 93rd in rushing yards.
USC boasts a talented, albeit underperforming front seven on defense. Junior Linebacker Drake Jackson may be the best of ‘em, he leads the team with 3 sacks. They are underperforming because they give up 27. 3 points per game which is 79th nationally and 8.4 yards per pass attempt which is 112th. Against Oregon State they gave up 322 yards rushing, but they held Colorado to 80 yards on 39 carries.
The Trojans have turned over the football 11 times already, they are 100th in the nation in sacking the quarterback, and 113th in making tackles for loss.
Also of note, USC is 126th in accumulating penalty yards at 83.2 yards per game.
Better offensively overall than defensively, this team has plenty of talented players, and you never know how they might respond after a bye week. It could go either way. Either way however, compared to where the Notre Dame program is right now, the Trojans demonstrate a lack of consistency, discipline and stability. The fact that in all likelihood all or most of their coaching staff will be looking for a job after the season adds to the dysfunction.
This one would seem to be about not letting the Slovis to London combination beat you, because the Irish are better at most every other facet of the match-up.
Michael Mayer returns and an improving Irish offensive line will benefit from the bye week. Those factors combined with the overall stability of the Irish program, in contrast to the USC situation, should be enough for a double digit win.
TV coverage on NBC is at 7:30 PM South Bend time (EDT), over/under is 57.5 and the Irish are 7 point favorites.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 34 USC 24