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Stacking Up The Notre Dame Defense vs. USC Offense

A look at how the Notre Dame defense stacks up against the USC offense

Notre Dame looks to continue its recent dominance over USC, and in order to do that the Fighting Irish defense must be on top of its game. USC has been a bit erratic on offense this season but when the Trojans are good they are very good.

Here's a look at how the Notre Dame defense stacks up against the Trojan defense.

Notre Dame Rush Defense vs USC Rush Offense

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Advantage: Notre Dame

USC has been a bit bipolar as a rushing offense this season. The Trojans racked up an impressive 218 yards (6.2 YPC) on the ground in a 37-14 road win at Colorado and 185 yards (5.6 YPC) in a 42-28 loss to Stanford. In its other three games against Power 5 opponents (Washington State, Oregon State, Utah) the Trojans went for just 48, 76 and 92 yards and failed to top 3.7 yards per carry.

There are quality backs on the roster for USC and the line has some good moments, but both have been very inconsistent this season. Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram rushed for 124 yards (8.9 YPC) in the win over the Buffaloes and racked up 1,561 yards during his first two seasons for the Longhorns. Vavae Malepeai has 1,725 career rushing yards is a nice between-the-tackles complement to the more shifty 

Notre Dame got ripped up by Florida State in the opener, giving up 264 yards (5.5 YPC), but the Irish ground defense has been quite good since. Notre Dame's last five opponents have averaged just 95.8 rushing yards and 3.2 yards per attempt. 

When the Notre Dame defensive line is playing at a high level and the defense is limiting mistakes its run defense is outstanding. If those two things continue in this matchup the Trojans will have a hard time having any kind of balance.

Even though USC doesn't run it much this is an important matchup. The last time these two teams played the Irish jumped out to a big lead, but USC battled back when it decided to commit more to the run game. Expect the Trojans to try to be more balanced early in this game, something Notre Dame cannot let happen. This is especially true if USC puts talented freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart in the game.

Notre Dame Pass Defense vs USC Pass Offense

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Advantage: Even

USC ranks 11th nationally in passing yards per game due in large part to the fact it ranks 8th in passing yards per attempt (42.8). Its quick perimeter pass game is an extension of its run game, and when the Trojans are at their best they are making a lot of yards after the catch with the quick game.

USC's yards per attempt and yards per completion are blow average numbers and the Trojans have already thrown seven picks in just six games. USC doesn't give up a lot of sacks but it has struggled to keep pressure from getting after quarterback Kedon Slovis. Notre Dame will need to get its pass rush back on track in this matchup, because allowing Slovis or Dart to get into rhythm is bad news.

Look, Drake London is going to get his touches, that is the nature of the offense. What Notre Dame must do is eliminate yards after the catch, prevent the big plays down the field and keep him from making the game wrecking plays that can give the Trojans cheap scores.

USC is going to move London all around, and when he's matched up against Clarence Lewis and the safeties he's going to be the most dangerous. Notre Dame must have a game plan that keeps London from doing to its defense what Cincinnati wideout Alec Pierce did to the defense.

Of course, the best way to shut down the pass game is to dominate in the trenches, get consistent pressure on the quarterback and keep the quarterbacks from getting into rhythm.

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Notre Dame Scoring Defense vs USC Scoring Offense

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Advantage: Notre Dame

A case could be made that this should be an even matchup, but Notre Dame has been a bit more consistent, especially of late. USC has been more erratic on offense. They've scored at least 26 points in each game, but all three of their losses have been by at least 14 points.

For Notre Dame, the Irish must win the third-down battle, keep USC settling for three points and force turnovers. That, ultimately, is why I gave Notre Dame the edge. The Irish defense has been outstanding at forcing turnovers all season, ranking 10th in the country with 14. USC has turned it over 11 times, which ranks 96th in the nation through six games.

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