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Game Prediction: #13 Notre Dame vs Southern Cal

Irish Breakdown makes predictions for the matchup between the 13th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Southern Cal Trojans

After a year off the Notre Dame and USC rivalry is finally back! The Fighting Irish (5-1) and Trojans (3-3) square off Saturday night in a game that is a must-win for both teams. Irish Breakdown has provided analysis of the game all week, and now it's time for game predictions.

BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER

Prediction: Notre Dame 41, USC 24

USC is a dangerous team but this isn't a typical Trojan squad that is loaded across the board. There are certainly some extremely talented players and positions that are quite strong, but the all-around talent and depth isn't typical for a USC team. Notre Dame hasn't lit the world on fire through the first six games, but coming out of the bye week we are going to see some changes and adjustments. Whether or not those changes will result in better play remains to be seen, but I predict it will.

On offense the key will get getting Jack Coan into an early rhythm. Spreading the ball around and making quick decisions are key for the Irish quarterback. The Irish have a lot of weapons and present some strong matchup advantages against the Trojans, and it's up to Coan to get the ball where it needs to go. As long as the offensive line can hold up we should see the Notre Dame offense have arguably its best game of the season.

On the other side of the ball the Irish must control the line of scrimmage. That means shutting down the USC ground attack and putting pressure on quarterback Kedon Slovis. The best way to keep wideout Drake London from taking over the game is to pressure Slovis, hit him and force him into mistakes. Notre Dame is very good at forcing turnovers and USC isn't good at protecting the ball, so pressuring Slovis will result in the Irish getting takeaways.

VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST

Prediction: Notre Dame 37, USC 17

This is going to be a fun game. Night game at Notre Dame Stadium. Biggest rival coming to town. Weather will be nice and chilly. This is what a home Notre Dame USC game is supposed to look like. It also doesn't hurt that they are reeling and have an interim coach. Kick 'em when they're down is where I am at with the Trojans! The more and more I watch this USC team the more I think this is the breakout game for Notre Dame offensively. I am not ready to predict a game in the 40s just yet but I am going high 30s. I think USC will rack up the yards between the 20s but will have trouble consistently getting into the end zone. Watch for Marcus Freeman to change things up just enough to keep the Trojans guessing.

GRANT DELVECCHIO, STAFF WRITER

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, USC 21

I think this will be the most complete game of the season for Notre Dame on both sides of the ball. USC has been below average in nearly every defensive category, but especially rushing the passer. If Jack Coan has a clean pocket, he should be able to pick apart an inconsistent Trojan secondary. USC has the offensive firepower (ie: Drake London) to make some big plays and put up points, but I expect the Irish to have an effective game plan for defending London and the USC passing attack. Every game so far this season for Notre Dame has been close for at least a half, but I expect this Saturday night to be all Irish from start to finish.

ANDREW MCDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR

Prediction: Notre Dame 41, USC 30

Notre Dame will put the bye week to good use and get the offense back on track against a USC defense that does not have the talent in the front seven that Cincinnati, Purdue, or Virginia Tech have. Jack Coan and the talented group of Irish wideouts will find success against the Trojans, who rank last in the Pac-12 in yards per play, yards per attempt, and passer rating. Early passing success will allow Notre Dame to be patient with establishing the run game, and the Irish will end up posting their first game with over 200 yards rushing, dominating the Trojans in the second half. 

Also, I expect to see some plays designed to get some talented young playmakers the ball and predict that freshman WR Lorenzo Styles scores the first touchdown of his Notre Dame career by taking a tunnel screen to the house.

On the other side of the ball, though Notre Dame will control this game and as long as the offense does not turn the ball over, never be in danger of losing, I expect USC to put up some points on the Irish defense. The Trojan offense is very talented and ranks first in the Pac-12 in yards per game and passing yards per game. The quick passes of the Air Raid offense will neutralize a strong Notre Dame pass rush and allow USC to get the matchups they want with their slot receivers against the Irish linebackers and Drake London on the outside against Clarence Lewis

The defense will need to play less aggressive than normal, using Kyle Hamilton to play coverage over the top to prevent big plays. The result will be some extended Trojan drives for scores, but the more plays USC has to run, the more opportunities for the Trojans to turn the ball over - they have 11 lost turnovers in only 6 games this season. 

SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO

Prediction: Notre Dame 37, USC 24

The 92nd edition of this renewed rivalry will take place on Saturday night. The 13th ranked Fighting Irish welcome the Trojans to South Bend for the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh. Both teams will be coming off bye weeks, but that’s’ where the similarities end. 

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USC has struggled to stop anyone defensively all season, and even though Notre Dame isn’t the most prolific offense, they will pose a tremendous challenge to the Trojan defense. Michael Mayer returns from the groin injury that kept him out of the Virginia Tech contest and should be able to feast over the middle of the field, while a steadily improving Fighting Irish offensive line should be able to open holes for Kyren Williams

USC wants to turn this into a track meet with them getting the ball last in the fourth quarter. In order to accomplish that, they have to play a more disciplined brand of football than they have all year. Marcus Freeman’s defense has been the anchor for the Fighting Irish up to this point, and they will look to pressure Kedon Slovis into mistakes. No doubt Slovis we’ll be looking for his All-American wide receiver Drake London, but will he have enough time to create the necessary big plays to pull off the upset. Notre Dame comes out early and imposes its will and the defense creates 2 turnovers and 4 sacks to stymie USC.

RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, USC 24

It’s rough to predict what the Notre Dame offense will look from a week to week basis but they gave a struggling Trojan unit. Kedon Slovis and the USC offense will score their fare share but the Irish outpace the Trojans for the victory. 

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