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Week 8 - USC at Notre Dame
Posted Oct 16, 2013

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Preview - USC at Notre Dame

USC at Notre Dame | Toledo at Navy, Army at Temple
- Houston at BYU and Rice at New Mexico State

Week 8 
USC at Notre Dame
- UCLA at Stanford
- Washington at Arizona State
-- CSU at Colorado, Utah at Arizona
- Wazzu at Oregon, Oregon St at Cal

USC (4-2) at Notre Dame (4-2) Oct. 19, 7:30, NBC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Neither USC nor Notre Dame is ranked, but the 85th meeting between the storied programs still matters, on each campus and deep within both fan bases.

The Trojans are set to play their second game—and first road game—under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron was successful in his debut as Lane Kiffin’s temporary successor, leading Troy to an emotional 38-31 over Arizona. While the problems that plagued the program haven’t disappeared, it was obvious last week that the players are going to have more fun playing for the reshuffled staff.

The Irish got to their bye week in decent shape, having split their four toughest games with Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Arizona State. ND will only face one more ranked team during the regular season, Stanford, which is more vulnerable than originally believed. It’s a long way off, but the Irish can still compete for a BCS bowl game if they explode out of the break and get hot.

Why USC Might Win: The Trojans will clamp down on the Irish running game, forcing inconsistent QB Tommy Rees to beat them. Troy is No. 15 in the country versus the run, while allowing just 3.7 yards per carry. Notre Dame’s inability to establish a consistent ground game won’t change this week. Linemen George Uko and Leonard Williams, and linebackers Devon Kennard and Hayes Pullard will force the Irish into the kinds of third-and-long situations that have caused problems for Rees and the Irish all year.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: In essence, the Irish to do the same thing to the Trojans, own the line of scrimmage so that the quarterback has to beat them. Notre Dame wants to put the ball in the hands of USC sophomore QB Cody Kessler, who’s playing in his first of these rivalry games. One of Troy’s biggest problems this season has been keeping the pocket clean for the quarterbacks. The Irish will enjoy a big edge at the point of attack with DE Stephon Tuitt, NG Louis Nix III and OLB Prince Shembo. South Bend at night versus a veteran D is going to be a very tough spot for Kessler.

Who To Watch Out For: Kessler’s assignment gets ever harder if WR Marqise Lee remains out with a knee injury. Nelson Agholor is an emerging star on the outside, but the passing game becomes doubly dangerous when both players are available to Kessler.

- Arizona QB B.J. Denker just got done using the USC secondary to script a career day through the air. Those breakdowns in pass defense had to jump off the film for the Notre Dame staff this week. Rees must a make it a point to get the ball in the hands of his three best targets, TE Troy Niklas and receivers TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels.

- A healthy Silas Redd is an important addition to the USC running game, especially since leading rusher Tre Madden may not suit up this weekend. Redd will spend much of the night trying to avoid LB Carlo Calabrese, ND’s leading tackler and one of its steadiest run defenders.

- The Trojans would love to get back Morgan Breslin from a hamstring injury, but outside linebacker appears to be in good hands no matter what. J.R. Tavai was revelatory in an emergency role last week, collecting 10 tackles, including 3.5 for minus yards. Versatile and aggressive, he’s a luxury to have coming off the bench.

What Will Happen: Yeah, it’s South Bend, but there’s no way that USC will be as jacked up as it was in the Coliseum a week ago. Instead, the Trojans will flash some of the mistakes from September that eventually got Kiffin canned. Notre Dame, on the flip side, will be recharged from the break and ready to go on a mini-run. The Irish will survive in a close game, making it two straight over Pac-12 opponents.

Prediction: Notre Dame 28 … USC 24
Line: Notre Dame -3 – O/U: 50
Must See Rating: (5 Bad Grandpa – 1 Vanilla Ice Goes Amish) … 3.5
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