The Fighting Irish (6-5) enter this week’s contest against the USC Trojans (7-4, 4-4 Pac-10) with a second straight victory over the Army Black Knights, 27-3 and a BCS bowl berth. USC got crushed by the Oregon State Beavers last week 36-7.
Notre Dame versus USC will be broadcast on Saturday, November 27th at 8 PM EST nationally on ABC from the Coliseum.
And without further ado here’s this weeks Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview Ladies and Gents…
Notre Dame Offense
Looking to make it three wins in a row QB Tommy Rees (756 yards, 63%, 8 TD, 5 INT) has picked up the slack and more from the injured Dayne Crist (2033 yards, 59%, 15 TD, 7 INT). Rees, having thrown for eight touchdowns in the past three games, will continue to lead the 27th ranked passing offense in the nation and no doubt direct his passes to the sublime WR Michael Floyd (830 yards, 9 TD).
Cierre Wood (433 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 2 TD) has proven to be a quality running back in place of the injured Armando Allen.
The team will likely have the services of standout WR Theo Riddick (406 yards, 3 TD) who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since October.
David Ruffer is a superb field-goal kicker for Notre Dame. Ruffer has made all 15 attempts this year including five over 40 yards.
Notre Dame Defense
Bob Diaco’s defense has played in a spectacular fashion as of late. Against formidable offenses in Utah and Navy, the Fighting Irish defense allowed zero touchdowns. That’s right. Zero. The longest stretch for the Irish since 1981. They have only let up 19 offensive points over the past three games.
The defense has shown significant improvement from 2009. Over that period the team has jumped from 88th to 55th in total defense and 63rd to 33rd in scoring defense.
Star linebacker Manti T’eo suffered a broken nose in last week’s game against Army. He has been cleared to play against the Trojans by Coach Brian Kelly. T’eo is having a monster season for the Fighting Irish. His 118 tackles rank him 13th nationally. T’eo has 37 more tackles than any other Irish defender.
The probable return of Linebacker Carlo Calabrese should give the Irish a big boost. Brian Smith will likely get the start here however.
The USC offense will prove to be a challenge against the Notre Dame defense as the Trojans have put up impressive numbers against schools like Stanford (35), Oregon (32), Arizona (24).
Starting QB Matt Barkely (2,593 yards, 63%, 25 TD, 10 INT) will likely sit this game out with a high ankle sprain suffered against Oregon State. He will be sorely missed. His back up Mitch Mustain (165 yards, 59%, 1 TD, 0 INT) will not make anyone forget Barkely having thrown 8 of 17 passes for 60 yards in the whopping loss last week. The 36th passing offense in the country will suffer a blow with the Mustain starting.
The Trojan backfield is anchored by RB Marc Tyler (820 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 9 TD) who also suffered a high ankle sprain and is doubtful to see action against Notre Dame. Allen Bradford (582 yards, 7.1 yards per carry, 4 TD) will pick up the slack along with freshman Dillon Baxter (248 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 1 TD) and senior C.J. Gable. (216 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 1 TD) Also look for Fullback Stanley Havili to be a threat on the ground and receiving.
WRs Ronald Johnson (616 yards, 8 TD) and Robert Woods (648 yards, 6 TDs) are two stars for USC. They are also adept at punt and kick off returns.
This is a sore spot to say the least. The Trojans have one of the worst pass defenses in the country (114th) and are not much better on third down. The rush defense is average in surrendering 141.1 yards per contest.
The Trojan defense is led by safety T.J. McDonald, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback Shareece Wright.
The Trojans have very impressive weapons on offense. They are useless however if you can not/do not know how to use them. Its also a problem when the other team just takes them away. The Fighting Irish spread offense will exploit the weak USC passing defense. Plus the Notre Dame defense will continue its dominance against the Trojan back up starter.
It also comes down to motivation. The Fighting Irish know that another win brings the squad to 7-5 and will greatly improve its chances in playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. USC, due to NCAA violations, have zero bowl aspirations. This will be reflected in their apathetic play.
Notre Dame 37 USC 10