Occasionally, Marcus Freemanhonesty emphasizes how young he is. It’s not just that the new head coach was only at Notre Dame as defensive coordinator for one season before being promoted, he’s also only 36 years old.
Freeman no doubt watched a few Notre Dame games against USC, but he was a sophomore at Ohio State when the most famous game of Freeman’s life took place, with the Trojans outdoing the Irish thanks to the infamous Bush Push in 2005. victory over Michigan State when that rivalry began, coming back from an early 10-0 deficit.
So Freeman turned to a Notre Dame expert this week for some insight into the rivalry.
“I spent some time [Monday] talked to in the morning [Irish offensive coordinator Tommy] Reese, Freeman said. “He has been there twice, once or twice as a player and once as a coach. I know he was there in 2018.
“I played there in 2008 when I was at Ohio State, but being part of that rivalry in the last game of the year has a lot on the line for both teams.”
In fact, Reece managed to make two trips to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, ending an unbeaten regular season, not to mention winning the west in his third career start in 2010. in 2012 or 2018. Instead, the Irish were given away championship chances, which was certainly a nicer place to do so than Stanford Farm.
All of which brings us to today, when No. 15 (8-3) Notre Dame can do what USC hasn’t done on those occasions, upset the No. 6 (10-1) Trojans and stop their playoff hopes.
TELEVISION: ABC is hosting today’s broadcast with its TV main cab, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstrait. The latter will fly out of the College GameDay set in Columbus, Ohio, which is a bit ironic considering Notre Dame started its season from this booth and that playground in Columbus, Ohio.
TIME: 7:30 AM ET, sunset on the West Coast just minutes after kick off tonight.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 22, 2022
PREVIEW: The Irish have played with several talented quarterbacks this season, most notably leader Heisman. CJ Stroud to open the season and NC sophomore sensation Drake May later in September. Notre Dame kept them both under control.
But none of them played as well as the star of the Trojans Caleb Williams recently.
“He’s a talented quarterback,” Freeman said, almost annoyed. “We’ve faced some very good quarterbacks this season and he’s one of the best I’ve seen. The strength of his hands is one thing. Another thing is his decision-making, his ability to prolong the game.
“He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen constantly breaking tackles. Yes, he can make people miss, but he breaks tackle. Guys keep him in their arms and he stays on his feet and that can be devastating for the defense. This may lead you to try to do something beyond what is your responsibility to protect. I want to play, I’ll try to get around this guy instead of staying in my lane. You have to stay on your rush lanes, but you can’t play safe.”
If any Notre Dame unit needs to be disciplined enough to follow this line, it’s the Irish defensive seven. Excluding junior defensive end Riley Mills, every Notre Dame starting player is a senior, and Mills might not even technically start. Among the linebacker rotations, the only non-older action may be sophomore Prin Collie’s limited snaps.
But in the minor, the Irish may have concerns.
“We have to cover those strikeouts and keep mixing up the coverage we play against. [Williams]Freeman said. “Keep doing your job, stay in your tight lanes. If you have the ability to bring him down, bring him down and put your feet up, don’t dive.”
Notre Dame will not have a senior quarterback Cam Hart tonight while dealing with yet another shoulder injury. Northwest Safe Transfer Brandon Joseph should return after spraining his ankle, but losing Hart to the bounty of the Trojans in the form of weapons could leave a freshman Jayden Mickey and/or junior Clarence Lewis in uncomfortable depths.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 26, 2022
In this respect, it may be reminiscent of the last time the Irish visited Los Angeles, which only fifth and sixth year players did. Then a freshman, cornerback Tariq Bracey repeatedly targeted by a USC quarterback J. T. Daniels. It got to the point where the entire press box was pointing at Bracey before taking the picture when he was in the only light.
Of course, Notre Dame won anyway, sealing a place in the playoffs, not something that is at stake for the Irish today, but now the hope of the Trojans.
FORECAST: Gameplay is a less abstract concept than the score often indicates. It was supposed to be Notre Dame’s forte throughout the season, with Rees’ kickoff scripts an asset in 2021. Eight of 13 Irish kickoffs last year resulted in quality possession but only six of 11 this season. What’s more, that six-of-11 trend was a struggle early in the season, with Notre Dame failing to muster quality possession ball in the first drive in three games in a row until the end of September. Since then, Rhys has had quality possession to open five of seven games, including each of the last two.
If this streak reaches three, the Irish could be underdogs tonight with 4.5 points as of Saturday morning.
It’s an obvious statement: if you score early and possibly lead the leaderboard, you’re more likely to win.
But the thought goes beyond that. Notre Dame’s biggest strength matches USC’s biggest weakness: a dominant rush game at the end of a game with the worst rush defense in the country. The Irish want to play on the ground just like they did against the then No. 16 Syracuse and then-No. 4 Clemson. To do this, they need to stay in the zone of Williams’ explosive attack.
Reece’s problems at the start of the season seem to be behind him. And that’s enough to make you think Notre Dame will win again in Los Angeles.
Notre Dame 27, USC 24.
(Spread: 2-9; Over/Under: 3-8; Straight: 6-5)
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 23, 2022
— The senior citizens of Notre Dame laid the “foundation” for Freeman’s tenure, proving it with the debacle at Boston College.
— Notre Dame is finally adding QB to its 2023 recruiting class, making the former Pitt commit to a contract with Kenny Minci.
— Notre Dame opponents: Irish hopes for Cotton Bowl hinge on Tennessee comparison
— And in that corner… USC hoping for a playoff gives Notre Dame a chance to be a spoiler
— Things to Learn: Notre Dame’s development season will be tested and possibly proven on the spot at the University of Southern California.
Notre Dame this season by scatter
Straight up ATS
Like an underdog 2-1 3-0
Clear favorite 2-0 2-0
As double-digit favorite 4-2 1-5
— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) November 25, 2022
Caleb Williams initially did not display the Heisman stance in the end zone, instead waiting for him to approach the USC sideline after his second touchdown in Saturday’s 38–27 victory over Notre Dame. But he could hardly be blamed if he channeled his inner Desmond Howard into the end zone.
The Trojans quarterback outshone his Irish counterpart even when Drew Pine passed more than three quarters without incomplete completion. No. 15 (8-4) Notre Dame put a lot of pressure on Williams, but much more often it backfired.
“Trainer [Lincoln Riley] always tells me that sometimes I play sports,” Williams said. ABCHolly Rowe after the game. “So use my legs whenever I can and go out there and be special.”
Had the Irish defensive line decided not to pursue Williams entirely in the backfield, they might have been able to hold him back, but even with a responsible passing rush, Williams could have dazzlingly come out of trouble and entered the field for profit.
“You see it happening over and over all year long,” Notre Dame’s head coach said. Marcus Freeman said. “His ability to feel pressure, to get out of it. We…