This is a vastly different Game than most predicted it would be going into the season. With Notre Dame fighting to stay undefeated and make the College Football Playoff, USC is simply fighting to reach six wins and guarantee a bowl Game. The Fighting Irish, traveling across the country, were -10.5 point favorites with an over/under of 54.5 as of Monday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
There are numerous trap scenarios in this matchup, mostly because Notre Dame just played in New York and now have to go to Los Angeles in addition to USC being in a must-win situation. Then again, the Irish weren’t challenged by Syracuse and it may not matter if the Trojans are in a must-win scenario because they’ve lost their last two against Cal and UCLA. It was a blowout when these teams met last year as Notre Dame ran for 377 yards in a 49-14 win. The bad news for USC is that Sam Darnold played in that Game and the offense has been worse without him. Throw in a stout Notre Dame defense that’s allowing 17.3 points per Game and just held Syracuse to three points, and it’s another tough spot for USC’s freshman quarterback.
JT Daniels may be an elite quarterback at some point, but it’s not this season as seen in his 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He threw for 337 yards against UCLA, but also had a couple interceptions and lost to a team that only had two wins. It doesn’t help that the rushing Game fell flat against the Bruins, a team with a much worse rush defense than Notre Dame’s. In fact, top running back Aca’Cedric Ware picked up a shoulder injury in the loss, which means Vavae Malepeai could be the top ball carrier, especially if Stephen Carr misses another Game. Daniels could put together a drive or two and Scorea couple touchdowns, but it’s hard to see this offense producing consistently in this matchup. The only win the Trojans have in the last five Games is against lowly Oregon State.
It doesn’t get better for USC’s defense after it gave up a ridiculous 313 rushing yards to UCLA. Notre Dame is far from a dominant rushing team, but it has the guys to run over weaker defenses. Running back Dexter Williams already ran for 202 yards against Florida State and the Irish are rushing for 4.6 yards per carry as a team. Even if USC can hold its ground for a few series, it still has to worry about quarterback Ian Book, who turned this offense around with 8.78 yards per attempt and 17 touchdowns. Unlike Daniels, Book has provided consistency for the offense, not turning the ball over, but also completing more than 70 percent of his passes.
The biggest worry for Notre Dame is the travel and that’s definitely something to keep in mind with a spread more than 10 points. Plus, the Trojans still have a talented roster and haven’t lost a home Game by more than three points. Of course, they haven’t faced an 11-0 team at home yet, either.
The Fighting Irish are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five road Games, while the Trojans are 1-6 ATS in their last seven home Games and haven’t covered in their last seven out of Conference play. The favorite has covered in the last six meetings between these schools but the home team has covered in the last five.
Our Pick – Notre Dame -10.5