And In That Corner … Playoff-hopeful USC gives Notre Dame a chance to be spoiler Notre Dame’s Opponents: Irish hopes of a Cotton Bowl appearance hinge on Tennessee comparison Notre Dame finally adds a QB to its recruiting class of 2023, landing former Pitt commit Kenny Minchey Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s seniors set a ‘foundation’ for Freeman’s tenure, prove it with Boston College rout Highlights: Notre Dame 44, Boston College 0 — A ‘fun’ shutout in the snow


last few years And in that corner… Notre Dame Preview USC Spent a Lot of Time on Former Trojans Head Coach Job Status Clay Helton. Finally, this storyline is far behind, and everything else in USC #6 (10-1) is intriguing.

To learn about everything that has changed for Trojans – perhaps the only program in the country that can match the Irish in terms of the number of drastic changes over the past 52 weeks – let’s chat with Adam Grosbard of Orange County Register before starting Saturday night at 7:30 pm ET on ABC.

DF: Brian Kellyfavorite axiom that Marcus Freeman leaned a little towards “Winning is hard.” It. And every time a team has one mandatory win after another mandatory win, it can tire out 18-23 year olds. USC could run that risk with a 48-45 win at UCLA last week and a Pac-12 title game coming up a week later. While this is only one game out of three, do you feel like the Trojans are frazzled by some version of the high-voltage wiring?

AG: Not really, although it would be hard for any outsider to get a feel for it before Saturday’s game. USC had the option to miss games all season. Fresno State in front of Oregon State, Arizona State in front of Washington State and Utah, Colorado in front of UCLA. The Trojans never let themselves be taken by surprise. It’s hard to look past an opponent like No. 15 (8-3) Notre Dame, especially when the team realizes the college football playoffs are two wins away. And the protective tackle and the captain Call Tuiplutu described this season as a “revenge tour” for the returning Trojans – they know full well that no player in the roster has ever beaten Notre Dame at USC.

This entire season has been a busy one for USC. It might be 10-1, but four of those wins came by one count, narrowly avoiding defeat in Oregon and Arizona before that close call with UCLA, not to mention losing 35 points to Cal. Both Arizona and Cal needed late touchdowns to tie the game, but even two-possession wins against the bottom half of the Pac 12 should be worrying for a playoff contender. What was it about Trojans that led to such drama this year?

In a word, protection. The division made headlines by creating losses, but it was also extremely shaky in tackles and mainstream coverage. After the Clay Helton era, the defense was the furthest to go, and it’s far from being a final product, and probably won’t be for at least another year. But USC is scoring enough points and building enough momentum to win despite its shortcomings.

Obviously, history at USC is a crime. If the defender Caleb Williams stars on Saturday, he could find himself as the leader of the Heisman on Sunday. Off-season headlines were about him and the Pittsburgh transfer. Jordan Addisonbut the Trojans pulled in two gears of runners, also in Travis Dai from Oregon and Austin Jones from Stanford. The paint is now out for the season. How much has this changed the USC attack?

In fact, surprisingly, not at all. Paint was a huge weapon for USC, but Austin Jones took his place with 25 touches for 177 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA. Jones was a workhorse at Stanford for a time before falling out of favor. He is a patient veteran who doesn’t try to do too much. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where USC skips Dye. The senior guard was unstoppable on the third and short shots, and Jones can’t match Dai’s ability as a blocker.

On the defensive, the Trojans are playing with fire. They throw 2.2 assists per game, mostly killing opposing quarterbacks (18 steals in 11 games). Let’s put aside the absurd +20 turnover margin and focus on defensive chaos. Only Washington State has avoided losing the ball against USC this season. UCLA can point to four losses as to how he lost. What are the Trojans doing to force all these turnovers? There has to be more to it than luck, even if 13 of the 17 fumbles, including their own, went their own way, it’s a bit of a coincidence.

I’m honestly not sure if this makes sense, because luck is definitely involved. But I respect the defense coordinator Alex Grinchthe simple philosophy is that the ball doesn’t know it should go offensive, and the ball doesn’t know about the law of averages.

For me, that might be two keys this weekend. Can Notre Dame make USC offense one-dimensional – for all the well-deserved hype of Caleb Williams, any offense that averages 5.34 yards per rush will have a hard time adjusting if it can no longer rely on ground play – and not bestow protection of Trojans a few turns more? If yes and yes, then a disorder may be brewing. What would you call the third key?

Can USC get some tackle for a loss? It’s been a subtle part of USC’s defense this year, but USC has averaged over six tackles per loss per game and just under three sacks per game. This is how the Trojans’ defense went off the field in their best games, creating third and long situations for opposing attacks. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is very good at preventing negative games, so I’ll keep an eye on that.

Before I start asking you for a forecast, let’s go back to November and August. First of all, last November, when Lincoln Riley took a job at USC less than 24 hours after the end of the season in Oklahoma, how shocked were you?

The night before Riley’s hiring was announced, it was leaked that Matt Campbell was in Iowa. At that moment, I sincerely wondered if USC was going to end up with Jack Del Rio like a coach. So to say I was shocked when the news about Riley broke would be an understatement.

And in August, what was expected from the Trojans this season?

In a way, this team is exactly what I expected: an excellent offense that should outperform a poor defense. What I didn’t expect was how quickly the attack would form or how many casualties USC would force. Because at no loss, you’re probably looking at a respectable 8-3 team right now, which is more in line with my expectations.

And now the forecast. USC is using 5.5, as of late Wednesday evening. How do you see Saturday night?

I expect a lot of points, maybe a game that comes down to who has the ball last. In games like this, I usually pick the team with the best quarterback, so in this case I pick USC and Caleb Williams.

It all depends on whether Notre Dame wins #15 on Saturday night (7:30 a.m. ET, ABC). If the Irish lose, then this whole hypothetical scenario will go down the drain.

It is quite possible that Notre Dame (8-3) will win. His current five-game winning streak has been impressive enough to win back the respect the Irish lost 3-3. The Trojans (10-1) are favorites with just 5.5 points, which is valuable context as we delve into this marvel, can Notre Dame make a cotton bowl?

Whether it is preferable to play the Cotton Bowl against an AAC champion or the Holiday Bowl against a strong Pac-12 opponent, for example, is another matter. The fact is that the Irish will not have a say in this debate. Either they finish the season with a high enough rating from the playoff selection committee to be required to play in the Cotton Bowl, or they don’t.

That ranking will come down to how Notre Dame compares to current numbers 9-14 after the poll was updated Tuesday night.

Map out the playoff scenario however you want – “If LSU beats Georgia…”, “If TCU loses…” – the conclusion remains fairly consistent: A victory over USC may not be enough for the Irish; to jump with all six teams straight ahead, the Irish may need to dominate the Trojans.

Some of those scenarios include Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl (with TCU in the playoffs), and some slide Tennessee into the Orange Bowl (requires two SEC teams in the playoffs), but otherwise, the question is how Notre Dame compares to Oregon, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Washington, and Utah.

If that thought process has changed dramatically in a week, thank you Volunteers for the devastating defeat in South Carolina. Suddenly, it’s not certain that Tennessee will stay ahead of the Irish no matter what they do this week. This opens the board.

However, volunteers can still be a hurdle that the Irish can’t overcome.

No. 9 Oregon – in Oregon State (3:30 p.m. ET; ABC) – Good wins: vs. UCLA, vs. Utah – Bad losses: none.
No. 10 Tennessee – in Vanderbilt (7:30 ET; SECN) – Good wins: in LSU against Alabama – Bad losses: in South Carolina.
No. 11 Penn State – v Michigan State (4 ET; FS1) – good…