Irish will keep it close, but USC is just too explosive
Posted: Friday October 14, 2005 11:16AM; Updated: Friday October 14, 2005 2:47PM
USC sure knows how to make things interesting, doesn't it? Come-from-behind wins at Oregon and Arizona State and a closer-than-expected battle with Arizona last Saturday. Now comes the Trojans' biggest test, a road game at Notre Dame, a team USC drilled by 31 points in each of the last three seasons. First-year coach Charlie Weis has helped put the fight back in the Fighting Irish and ND will give USC all it can handle in a can't-miss matchup.
(1) USC at (9) Notre Dame
3:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Notre Dame Stadium (80,795)
In the last two games, LenDale White has run for 376 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards a carry.
Peter Read Miller/SI
When the offense gets rolling, the Trojans are nearly impossible to beat. USC leads the nation with 604.4 yards per game and is second in scoring, averaging 51.6 points per game. If quarterback Matt Leinart is given time he'll pick apart Notre Dame with a pair of big-play wideouts -- Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. But it all starts with the running game. Reggie Bush is the home run threat, while LenDale White, who has been in another world the past two games, is USC's version of The Bus. To have a chance to win, Notre Dame must contain the Trojans' backs, especially on first down. USC has shown some chinks in its armor on defense the last few weeks, especially in the secondary. Expect the Irish to pick on corners John Walker and Justin Wyatt early. Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson have been the Trojans' best players up front and they must keep constant pressure on Irish quarterback Brady Quinn.
While Notre Dame's offense isn't nearly as prolific as USC's, the Irish can move the ball and sustain drives. They average 504.2 yards total offense per game, including 329.9 through the air. Quinn (1,621 yards) has been remarkably efficient (13 TD passes, three interceptions) and as valuable to the Irish as another Brady was to Weis with the Patriots. Quinn makes good decisions and has a big, sure-handed target in 6-foot-5 wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, who has eight touchdown receptions. Running behind a veteran offensive line, sophomore Darius Walker (105.6 yards per game) has been terrific, and he'll play a major role because the key to beating USC is keeping the Trojans' offense off the field. Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte (42 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks) headlines a solid but unspectacular defense, which needs to create turnovers for the Irish to knock off the Trojans.
While USC has far superior talent, don't expect this one to be a blowout. Notre Dame has some game-breakers of its own and will have the advantage of playing in front of a fired-up crowd. This is one team the Trojans can't toy around with. I expect them to come out focused and ready. Notre Dame will keep it close, but in the end USC is too explosive, has too much talent and will increase its winning streak to 28 games.
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