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USC vs. Notre Dame Football Pick With Analysis

10/22/11

Notre Dame hosts USC on Saturday Night at 7:30 pm est. Notre Dame comes in shooting for a BCS spot having won 4 straight after an 0-2 start while USC comes in 5-1 and not eligible for post season play as a result of being on probation. The Irish are 9 point home favorites over the Trojans, who have pretty much dominated Notre Dame over the past decade.

If you're USC, you put extra emphasis on the marquee games like this one. With no chance for post season glory, and nothing to play for but pride and a regular season winning record, you have to make the most of games like this. A game like this allows them to have a big impact on the national scene by potentialy knocking a rival out of the picture.

While they put extra emphasis on marquee games, this game against Notre Dame may get top billing on their hit list. Here's a quote from USC Athletic director Pat Haden : "For all our players, coaches and certainly our fans, Notre Dame is always a special game. They are a program that is definitely getting better. I sense they are rising, and we need to keep pace and maintain the dominance that we have had over them in recent years. I will always evaluate separately how we play against UCLA and Notre Dame. That will always be important to me."

So how will it all play out? Well, if you look across the board at the key statistical categories you'll find these two teams to be fairly close in many. They both score and give up about the same number of points.  Notre Dame rushes for approximately 60 yards more per game while the passing yardage is very close, on average. Yards per point numbers are dead even offensively while the Irish hold a slight edge defensively. The biggest differential in any category would be pass defense, where USC is 105th in the country and Notre Dame is 67th.

We'd like to be able to make a strong argument one way or the other in a spot like this as this will be one of the most watched games of the weekend, but that's not going to happen. We can make a case for either side here.

For USC, the concern is those two games against Arizona and Arizona State. If you take those two games out of the picture, they held each team they faced to 17 points or less. Unfortunately, they gave up 43 and 41 to the Arizona teams and they were, up to this point, the most prolific offenses they faced. The problem being, Notre Dame may have them both beat. The Irish could break this game wide open.

The last two years this game has been decided by a TD or less, with Notre Dame on the rise while USC is on the decline. The Irish won last year 20-16. Our score prediction model has this one right on the number with a predicted score of 30-21 Notre Dame. The feeling here is that this is likely a close game for three quarters but we see the Irish pulling away late and extending the margin as a result of too much fire power on offense. None of the methods we rely on to produce plays comes in strong enough on either side to warrant us getting involved, so we'll pass, but out best guess is Notre Dame -9

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