No. 13 Notre Dame and USC will renew their storied rivalry for the 92nd time Saturday as the Fighting Irish play host to the Trojans in South Bend, Indiana. Last season’s break in the historic series came after the Pac-12 went to a conference-only schedule for 2020 and Notre Dame joined the ACC for a single season, but now it’s time to add another chapter to this traditional rivalry with a regular schedule back in place.
Both Notre Dame and USC enter Saturday night’s nationally televised showdown coming out of well-timed open weeks that allowed their coaches to assess the state of their teams with six games to play. Brian Kelly has a 5-1 squad that should be in the mix for a New Year’s Six appearance as long as its lone loss is to Cincinnati, while interim coach Donte Williams has 3-3 USC hoping it can perform with more week-to-week consistency. The break also gave both coaches a chance to assess their current quarterback situations, which stands out as one of the big storylines around the game.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 49-37-5, and Kelly has been particularly successful in this game, carrying a 7-3 record against the Trojans.
Notre Dame vs. USC: Need to know
The All-American matchup to watch: Both USC wide receiver Drake London and Notre Dame defensive back Kyle Hamilton showed up on the CBS Sports Midseason All-America team, and while the wide receiver and safety won’t be one-on-one on a down-to-down basis, there won’t be a snap when the entire Fighting Irish secondary isn’t aware of where London is lining up. USC’s offense has flowed through London and that means he’s going to be all over the field. Hamilton’s own versatility — not to mention the importance of Notre Dame having its best defensive player involved in stopping USC’s best offensive player — all but guarantees we’ll see these two future pros battle at different points throughout the game.
Quarterback questions linger: Notre Dame has featured three quarterbacks in recent weeks, with a combination of injuries and performance contributing the rotating cast of characters under center. According to Kelly, Jack Coan will remain the team’s starter, but freshman Tyler Buchner will play and Drew Pyne will be ready to go if needed. Coan is the best downfield passer of the group, but he does not present much of a threat in the ground game. That’s an area where Buchner has been able to contribute as the primary quarterback for read-option and quarterback run aspects of the offense. Meanwhile, USC could have Jaxson Dart available as he returned to practice this week after undergoing meniscus surgery earlier in the season. Hiis status is officially day-to-day, but even if he’s cleared there will be some interesting decisions to make going up against a Notre Dame defense that has been fantastic at rushing the quarterback and forcing turnovers.
Notre Dame defense excels against the pass: Notre Dame’s defensive efforts start up front, where defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey is tied for eighth nationally in sacks per game and a total of 15 different defenders have recorded a tackle for loss. Then, once opponents get caught in third-and-long or other obvious passing situations, the back seven steps up with great ball skills that lead to takeaways. Notre Dame is currently tied for fifth nationally in interceptions and tied for 11th in takeaways, and seven different players have recorded an interception.
How to watch Notre Dame vs. USC live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 23 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ETLocation: Notre Dame Stadium — South Bend, IndianaTV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Notre Dame vs. USC prediction, picks
Featured Game | Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans
Trying to predict the quality of performance for this Trojans’ team is a fools’ errand, but I’m just foolish enough to bite on a talented team that has some extra motivation playing against a rival on the road. USC has been much better on the road than it has at home, so I think that trend continues and the Trojans can stay within the number. Prediction: USC (+7)
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