Notre Dame – USC Free CFB Pick

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Notre Dame

vs.

USC

College Football Pick

11/26/16

Both Notre Dame and USC had rough starts to the season, but only one has turned things around. The Trojans are suddenly a playoff contender in some eyes, while the Fighting Irish ensured Brian Kelly’s first losing season at the helm last weekend. And so, the Trojans were early -17.5 point home favorites.

Every week it seems like the public wants to let Notre Dame back into the fold after a big win and yet every time the Irish let them down. They have Four wins on the year and have yet to follow one of those up with another win. They took down Miami a little over a month ago and then lost to Navy the weekend. They destroyed Army a couple weeks ago and then let a double-digit lead against Virginia Tech slip away.

The Irish don’t get beat big (biggest loss by eight points) and that could come into play with the spread so large in this Game. However, they haven’t played anyone as good as USC yet.

The Trojans are a completely different team from earlier in the season and have reeled off seven straight wins. If Colorado gets upset this weekend, USC would even make it to the Pac-12 title Game where they could possibly further a playoff push with another win over Washington. But that’s a ways off. They have won five straight Games by at least 13 points with that smallest win coming at Washington. against similarly weak teams as Notre Dame, they have won easily.

And it’s not just one side of the field for the Trojans, they are excelling on both sides of the field. They haven’t allowed more than 24 points in any of their wins, which is really good for the Pac-12. Holding down a hot Washington team to 13 points was most impressive.

Notre Dame’s offense may be its strong suit, but the last time they saw a good defense (Stanford), they could only muster 10 points. In the season finale and possibly final Game of quarterback DeShone Kizer’s collegiate career, the Irish will undoubtedly need to score. Kizer has been a small bright spot for this team, having 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the year, although completing less than 60% of his passes. He’s thrown just one pick in the last Four Games and his mobility is another strong suit.

OUtside of Kizer, there hasn’t been much. Running back Josh Adams has had a couple good Games, but is still averaging 5.3 yards per carry, almost two full yards less than a year ago. The offense will need to find some kind of balance in this Game. Otherwise, it could be yet another long night.

That’s made possible because Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t stopped anyone of relevance this season. It doesn’t help that USC’s offense is cruising at the moment behind freshman quarterback Sam Darnold. He has the same 24-8 TD-INT ratio as Kizer, but is completing almost 10% (68.3%) more of his passes. Interceptions weren’t a problem for him early on, but he now has six in the last Four Games. But the difference is that this offense can actually run the ball consistently behind Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis. That will be a major problem for this Irish defense that couldn’t stop Virginia Tech last weekend.

It was a high scoring Game when these teams met in the middle of last season (ND winning 41-31), but USC’s defense is a tad better than it was at that point. And then you have a weaker Notre Dame rushing attack and it’s hard to see the Irish putting another 41 points on the Trojans, especially on the road.

The Fighting Irish are 2-5 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, but 8-3 ATS in their last 11 Games following an ATS loss. The Trojans have covered five straight Games and are 4-1 ATS in their last five at home. In this matchup, the favorite has covered in the last Four, and the Trojans are 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings in Southern Cal.

Our Pick – Notre Dame +17.5