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Getting To Know USC’s Week 8 Opponent: Notre Dame

Saturday night the USC Trojans travel to South Bend to take on the 13th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This will be the 89th meeting of these two teams; in the past USC and Notre dame have had some classics. Vegas currently has Notre Dame as a seven-point favorite. This will be nationally televised and should be a good one.

2020 Season In Review

Last year Notre Dame decided to join the Atlantic Coast Conference and play as a full member for the season. Their one loss came from Clemson who Notre Dame beat earlier in the year in overtime 47-40. Unfortunately, Clemson got revenge beating them 34-10 sending the Fighting Irish to the Rose Bowl to face off against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

Alabama would end up beating the Irish 31-14 in a blowout. It was a very lackluster way to end a very impressive year for Brian Kelly and Notre Dame but expectations for this year were nothing short of excellence.

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Key Additions And Departures

With the New Orleans Saints selecting former starting quarterback Ian Book in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, coach Kelly had to figure out who was next.

One of the few impactful transfers would be graduate transfer from Wisconsin Jack Coan, who according to coach Kelly, remains the starter even though there has been a rotation going on due to injuries. Coan looks to be that veteran presence in the quarterback room.

Another key addition to this roster would be All-American guard Cain Madden who is the starting right guard for the Fighting Irish currently. After an impressive career with the Thundering Herd at Marshall, Madden looks to finish off with Notre Dame.

Unfortunately, it looks like the importance of the departures outweighs the importance of their additions. Linebacker Jordan Genmark-Heath transferred to UCLA and is starting at inside linebacker. Ja’Mion Franklin transferred to Duke and is a rotational defensive tackle. Isaiah Rutherford transferred to Arizona and is a starting cornerback. Jack Lamb transferred to Colorado and is starting at SAM linebacker. Dillon Gibbons is starting at left guard after transferring to Florida State.

You can see there was a lot of talent that left the program, however, Notre Dame is confident they found and can replace what they lost.

2021 Outlook

Notre Dame currently sits at 5-1 and is the 13th ranked team in the nation. You’d assume if you’re ranked in the top 25 you’ve beat teams convincingly or beat a team ranked higher than you prior to playing.

Surprisingly, the Fighting Irish have had a very interesting yet entertaining start to their season. In Week One, Notre had a shootout against Florida State where they’d win 41-38. Then, they narrowly squeezed by Toledo only beating them by a field goal 32-29. They’d cruise by their next two opponents, Purdue and Wisconsin, beating them by more than two touchdowns. The only loss they suffered was against the now ranked 2nd team in the nation, Cincinnati Bearcats, 24-13.

Ground Game Led Offense

As of the last few weeks including last week’s game against Virginia Tech, Coach Kelly has been throwing in Tyler Buchner for 20 to 25 plays a game to keep the defense on their toes. It’s clear Jack Coan is the better passer down the field but doesn’t offer much on the ground. Buchner is an athletic body who threw for 113 but ran for almost 70 last week.

It’s clear the strength of this offense, or at least what we’ve seen so far, is the use of the running backs. The rushing attack of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree is one to keep an eye on. Williams is the more versatile of the two and has 370 yards on the ground and another 200 receiving.

Notre Dame has had a good resume of tight ends through the years such as Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, and most recently Tommy Tremble. This year’s sophomore tight end, Michael Mayer, leads the team in receptions (32) and yards (360). As you know from the Halloween movies, Michael Myers may not be the fastest but in the end, he’ll always get you. Not a better name in college football in the month of October.

Stingy Defense Led By Nations Top Safety

On the defensive side, there’s no question as to who’s the biggest name. Yes, you guessed it, it’s junior safety, Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton is projected to be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft and his production isn’t slowing down. Hamilton has 3 interceptions this year so far and nobody would be surprised if he ends the year with the most. He’s a top, if not the top, safety in the nation with his insane range and football IQ.

Notre Dame’s defensive line has been pretty productive stopping the run but especially rushing the passer. Defensive Lineman Isaiah Foskey leads the team in sacks with five and a half, while the Ademilola brothers, Justin and Jayson, each have two. Along with the cousin of Tua Tagovailoa, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, with two and a half; overall this defense has 16 sacks.

History Against Trojans

As I mentioned earlier, this will be the 89th meeting between these two teams. Notre Dame currently leads the series 47-36, with 2019 being the most recent victory over USC where the Irish won 30-27. Notre Dame is currently on a 3-game win streak from 2017-2019 due to both programs not seeing each other in 2020. It will be interesting to see how interim head coach Donte Williams attacks this well-coached and uber-talented Notre Dame Squad.

Panorama of the football field at Notre Dame Stadium. Photo Credit: JCK_Photos | Wikimedia Commons

Panorama of the football field at Notre Dame Stadium. Photo Credit: JCK_Photos | Wikimedia Commons

Justin Urgo

Author Justin Urgo

Growing up in Camarillo CA, the closest sports teams were the Dodgers, Lakers, Angels, Clippers, etc. As you know there were no football teams in LA in 2005. I was around 7 years old when I saw my friend's dad watching a Titans vs Chargers game. He was a die-hard Chargers fan and I have been following them ever since. As for USC football, I started following them a little later around 2008 and it started because my cousin was a UCLA fan and a joke ended up turning into me actually becoming a fan. Overall I'm a huge sports fan regardless of the sport but I'm 100% partial to the great game of football. Excited to bring you the best USC Football coverage in the game!

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