Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Notre Dame-USC Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is coming off his finest performance yet as a Notre Dame quarterback as he set career highs in multiple areas. The redshirt freshman has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,918 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. His rushing numbers are also impressive as well as he has 258 rushing yards (4th on the team) and 5 rushing touchdowns (tied for 1st on the team with George Atkinson III). Tommy Rees has seen playing time in the last 10 games in a row and has completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 436 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions on the season. Andrew Hendrix has appeared in 3 games this season as well and has completed 5 of his 7 passes for 55 yards this season.

Notre Dame QB's vs. USC Pass Defense: USC comes in with the 68th ranked pass defense overall. They have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 61 percent of their passes and allow 241.7 yards per game. In addition, they have also allowed 18 passing touchdowns and have intercepted 18 passes as well. Everett Golson has been very impressive in the last 4 games and has done quite well in prime-time games. Despite missing one of his best receivers in Davaris Daniels, he set career highs in a few passing areas against Wake Forest, look for Golson to continue playing at the strong level that he has been playing at in the last few games.

Edge: Notre Dame

USC QB's: USC quarterback Matt Barkley is out against Notre Dame with an injury that he sustained last weekend in the loss to UCLA. The 4-year starter had completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. With Barkley out, redshirt freshman Max Wittek will make his first career start against the Irish. On the season he has appeared in 6 games and he has completed 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards and 1 touchdown. Cody Kessler appeared in 8 games and completed 2 of 2 passes for 9 yards.

USC QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Notre Dame has done a great job on pass defense this season by allowing only 3 of their 11 opponents to throw for more than 200 yards this season. The Irish pass defense is ranked 24th in the nation and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 59.4 percent of their passes for 195.2 passing yards a game. Notre Dame has also only allowed 6 passing touchdowns all season and has intercepted 14 passes on the season. With a redshirt freshman making his first career start rather than the injured 4-year starter starter, there is a drop off. However, Max Wittek has the best receivers that Notre Dame faces all season, but Notre Dame should be able to apply pressure on Wittek and be able to drop enough defenders in coverage to shut down USC's passing offense.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame RB's: Theo Riddick leads the Irish in rushing yards with 734 rushing yards on 160 carries for an average of 4.6 yards a carry and has 4 rushing touchdowns. Theo Riddick has been very good in the receiving game as well with 331 receiving yards on 32 catches and also has 1 receiving touchdown as well. Cierre Wood is coming off a strong game and in 9 games this season he has 720 rushing yards this season on 102 carries with 7.1 yards a carry. He also has the two longest rushing touchdowns by the Irish with a 62 yard touchdown and a 68 yard touchdown. George Atkinson III has rushed for 346 yards this season 49 carries and also has a 7.1 yard average. He also has 5 rushing touchdowns (tied for 1st overall with Everett Golson) as well. Cam McDaniel has seen time as well with 125 rushing yards on 23 carries for a 5.4 yard average and has 1 rushing touchdown as well.

Notre Dame RB's vs. USC Rush Defense: The Trojans has the 50th ranked run defense in the nation. They have allowed opponents to rush for 150.4 rushing yards a game, average 3.9 yards per rush, and they also has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns as well. Notre Dame comes in with the 33rd ranked rushing offense that averages 200.7 yards a game. Notre Dame should be able to get the run game going against USC considering that they have two running backs with 700+ rushing yards this season and the team has 21 rushing touchdowns overall. Theo Riddick didn't get a lot of touches against Wake Forest, which was likely to rest him for USC, but look for both Wood and Riddick to get a solid amount of carries against USC. Look for another strong rushing performance by the Irish. Ball control will be very important and Notre Dame will need to establish the run as soon as possible. It will help keep USC's offense off the field and keep the Notre Dame defense rested so they don't tire out.

Edge: Even

USC RB's: Silas Redd leads the Trojans in rushing with 740 rushing yards on 138 carries and also has 9 rushing touchdowns and a 5.4 yard average. Curtis McNeal also has a good amount of rushing yards with 658 yards on 103 carries and has a 6.3 yard average with 2 rushing touchdowns. The only other running back with notable rushing numbers is D.J. Morgan with 201 rushing yards on 41 carries and he has 1 touchdown and a 4.9 yard average.

USC RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The 66th ranked rushing offense of USC goes up against one of the best run defenses in college football. Notre Dame's run defense is ranked 5th in the nation and has allowed only 2 rushing touchdowns all season and is allowing opponents to average just 3.1 yards a carries and 92.2 yards a game. Notre Dame has allowed only 4 opponents to gain 100 or more rushing yards in a single game this season with the most being 161 in the 13-6 win over Michigan. Notre Dame has done a great job in shutting down opposing run offenses this season and should be able to do the same against USC.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: The receiving unit is doing a great job despite losing Davaris Daniels for the regular season to injury who had 25 catches for 375 yards this season. Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones are tied in receptions and receiving touchdowns and the receiving yards are close to. Both are having good seasons with TJ Jones having his best season yet for the Irish. Tyler Eifert set the school record for career receptions in the win last weekend over Wake Forest, on the season he has 40 receptions for 555 yards and 4 touchdowns. TJ Jones has 40 receptions for 519 yards and has 4 touchdowns. Robby Toma has 22 receptions for 218 yards this season and Daniel Smith has 7 catches for 47 yards. John Goodman has stepped up in the last couple weeks and has 6 receptions for 136 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 coming in the last 2 games and Troy Niklas has 5 catches for 75 yards.

Notre Dame WR's vs. USC DB's: USC comes in with the 68th ranked pass defense and one that has been unimpressive in the last 4 games, in which they have allowed 9 passing touchdowns and 3 of the 4 opponents to complete 60 percent or more of their passes, with 2 completing 87 percent and 73.3 percent. With Golson able to get the ball to his receivers on short and deep passes, especially as of late, look for Golson to target TJ Jones and Tyler Eifert quite often, both of whom have been really good for the Irish as of late. Tyler Eifert is quite dangerous in the endzone as he has caught all of his touchdowns this season in the endzone as well. In addition, Tyler Eifert has been important in moving the chains or getting points on the boards as 29 of 40 receptions have been for a touchdown or a first down. Even if Eifert does get a lot of coverage, it will open things up for other receivers, particularly TJ Jones and John Goodman.

Edge: Notre Dame

USC WR's and TE's: USC comes in with arguably the best receiver in college football this season in Marqise Lee, who has 107 catches for 1,605 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lee is having one of the best single seasons for a receiver and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best wide receiver in the nation. He isn't the only dangerous receiver the Trojans have, as Robert Woods has 66 catches for 721 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tight Ends Xavier Grimble has 26 receptions for 288 yards and 5 touchdowns while Randall Telfer has 12 catches for 100 yards and 4 touchdowns. Nelson Agholor has 19 receptions 340 yards and 2 touchdowns as well. These 5 get a majority of the receptions, yards, and touchdowns has they combine for 230 of the 256 total receptions out of every player, 3,054 receiving yards out of 3377 receiving yards, and 35 of 37 receiving touchdowns.

USC WR's vs. Notre Dame DB's: The Irish come in with the 24th ranked pass defense that has held 8 out of 11 opponents to below 200 yards passing this season. They face their biggest challenge yet in the receiving game of the Trojans which has 5 players that account for a very large majority of the receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Despite the fact that USC is starting a backup, it will be vital to stop Marqise Lee the most out of all the receivers, but also account for the other receivers and tight ends too.

Edge: USC

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line of Notre Dame has been really good as of late. One of the biggest reasons has to be junior left tackle Zach Martin, who has started all 37 games in his career so far for Notre Dame and is also a captain on offense as well. Notre Dame has done a good job in the run block area by allowing them to average 200.7 yards a game, 5 yards per rush, and accumulate 21 rushing touchdowns. The offensive line has also allowed 49 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, and 42 quarterback hurries as well.

Notre Dame OL vs. USC DL: The Trojans have been able to get into opposing backfields pretty easily by accumulating 88 tackles for loss and 42 sacks, but only 2 quarterback hurries. Keeping Golson protected is extremely important for the Notre Dame offensive line as Morgan Breslin leads USC with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks most notably. It will also be important to keep USC out of the backfield as well to reduce tackles for loss and Golson will need to get the balls to his receivers quickly.

Edge: Even

USC OL: The offensive line of USC has allowed 61 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, and 4 quarterback hurries this season. They have been solid in run blocking as they are averaging 160.5 yards a game, 5.1 yards per rush, and have 12 rushing touchdowns as well. They did have a bit of a drop off since they lost the 4th overall pick to the 2012 NFL Draft in offensive tackle Matt Kalil as Max Tuerk, a true freshman now starts on the line this season.

USC OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Trojans face one of the best defenses in the country that has racked up 61 tackles for loss and 32 sacks, and also gets a lot of pressure on quarterbacks with 46 quarterback hurries as well. Stephon Tuitt is a major challenge to keep out of the backfield with 13 tackles for loss and 12 sacks this season. Tuitt won't be the only player on the line that USC has to account for and with a backup in as starter at quarterback will make things interesting.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: Stephon Tuitt has been a dominant force for the Irish on the defensive line as he ranks first overall in sack yardage with 89 yards. On the season he has 40 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 9 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 blocked kick. Louis Nix III has also had a huge impact on the defensive line at his nose tackle position and has 42 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Kapron Lewis-Moore is having a strong senior season as the 4-year starter has 34 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 9 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Sheldon Day has had a lot of playing time with 20 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry. Tony Springmann has 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 3 quarterback hurries.

Notre Dame DL vs. USC OL: With USC starting a backup quarterback, it will mean that Notre Dame will be able to drop more defenders into coverage and still be able to get pressure with little difficulty. Stephon Tuitt is nearing the single season sack record and Louis Nix III is able to plug up the middle. Look for a strong game out of the defensive line of the Irish.

Edge: Notre Dame

USC DL: Morgan Breslin is having a pretty good season for USC with 49 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. Leonard Williams is also having a good season as well with 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries. Wes Horton has 32 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. George Uko has 24 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble while Antwaun Woods has 16 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.

USC DL vs. Notre Dame OL: With the amount of sacks and tackles for loss that the defensive line has accumulated for USC this season, it means that protecting Golson is top priority for the Notre Dame offensive line while also keeping them out of the backfield so that the running game can get moving as well. It should be an interesting matchup overall.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame LB's: Manti Te'o is having a legendary season for the Irish as he has a team-leading 98 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries and 2 fumble recoveries. His 6 interceptions are a school record by a linebacker. He is a finalist for many awards such as the Maxwell Award, the Bednarik Award, and many others. In addition, he also is one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy. Te'o also helps give Notre Dame one of the best front sevens in the nation and the best scoring defense as well. Prince Shembo also has been having a tremendous impact as well with 43 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 12 quarterback hurries, and 1 fumble recovery. Dan Fox also has been doing well with 54 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Carlo Calabrese has 46 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and forced fumble while Danny Spond has 36 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 3 pass breakups this season. Ishaq Williams has 19 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Other linebackers that have played a decent amount include Jarrett Grace, Ben Councell, Kendall Moore, and Romeo Okwara.

Notre Dame LB's vs. USC: The linebackers have a couple of tight ends to account for in the pass coverage as Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer combine for 38 receptions, 388 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Run coverage is important to with Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal. With Manti Te'o leading the defense, Notre Dame should be able to account for all of them as needed. Manti Te'o should yet again have another strong game and could also more or less be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

Edge: Notre Dame

USC LB's: Hayes Pullard is 2nd overall in tackles by a USC defender with 78 and he also has 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Dion Bailey has 71 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. Lamar Dawson has 64 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble while Anthony Sarao has 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Tony Burnett has 22 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.

USC LB's vs. Notre Dame: The linebackers should have more to account for with Notre Dame having a really good running game that has three running backs that are able to be rotated often and a quarterback that can take off as well. Tyler Eifert also will make things interesting in the pass coverage as well as he has been quite dangerous in the last 6 games with 29 receptions and 3 touchdowns as well. Golson continues to find him more and more and that will make it harder to cover him as well.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DB's: The secondary has done a terrific job at containing opposing quarterbacks as only 3 opponents this season have passed for 200 or more yards all season against Notre Dame. Zeke Motta leads all defensive backs in tackles with 56 and has 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. Bennett Jackson is having a really good season and has 55 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. KeiVarae Russell is having a good freshman season and has done a great job in tackling as well. He has 47 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, and 1 quarterback hurry. Matthias Farley has done well in replacing the injured Jamoris Slaughter earlier this season and he has 34 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. Other defensive backs have played a decent amount as well, especially Elijah Shumate.

Notre Dame DB's vs. USC WR's: The big matchup here will be Bennett Jackson vs. Marqise Lee who is among the best receivers in college football. Robert Woods will also prove dangerous as well in shutting down, along with Nelson Agholor. Of the three wide receivers that have to be accounted for, none are bigger that 6'1'' which means that they wont have the size to beat defenders with. The two tight ends will need to be accounted for too, but Notre Dame should be able to drop more defensive backs into coverage as well, and need to also prevent short passes and the big play too.

Edge: USC

USC DB's: T.J. McDonald leads USC in tackles with 89 and has 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 blocked kick. Nickell Robey has 45 tackles, 1 interception, 4 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked kick. Torin Harris has 30 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 6 pass breakups while Jawanza Starling has 30 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble. Josh Shaw has 23 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 5 pass breakups.

USC DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The Trojan defensive backs have quite a bit to account for despite the fact that Notre Dame doesn't have Davaris Daniels playing. TJ Jones is coming off a career high in receiving yards and tied his career high in receptions in the win over Wake Forest, John Goodman has been strong in the last 2 games particularly and should close out his senior season strong. Tyler Eifert is always dangerous and can attract double or triple teams. However, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson continues to get better and better and has been getting the ball to his receivers and really doing well at extending plays. Look for the receivers of Notre Dame to have a strong game as Golson has another strong prime-time performance.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza has made 18 of 25 field goals this season with a long of 47 yards. Ben Turk is averaging 40.3 yards a punt with a long of 53. He has punted the ball 45 times, and 2 were touchbacks, 18 fair caught, 13 inside the 20, and 7 of 50+ yards. Kyle Brindza is the kickoff specialist as well with a 62.4 yard average on 62 kickoffs with 23 touchbacks.

USC Kicking Game: Andre Heidari is 8 of 13 this season with a long of 41 and is 2-6 when it is 40 or more yards. He also has had 2 blocked kicks this season as well. Kyle Negrete is averaging 42.2 yards a punt on 33 punts with a long of 65 and has had 9 fair caught, 15 inside the 20, and 8 of 50+ yards. Craig McMahon and Andrew Heidari have both done kickoffs. McMahon is averaging 61.1 yards on 37 kickoffs with 17 touchbacks while Heidara is averaging 61.7 yards a kickoff on 34 kickoffs with 12 touchbacks.

Stronger Unit: Even

Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has returned 15 kickoffs for 307 yards and averages 20.5 yards a return and Cam McDaniel has 7 returns for 135 yards and a 19.3 yards average. Punt returns remain a non-factor with Davonte Neal returning 18 for just 44 yards all season long.

USC Return Game: Marqise Lee has been dangerous in kickoff returns with a 29.3 yard average. He has returned 24 kickoffs for 704 yards and 1 touchdown. Nelson Agholor has 5 returns for 121 yards as well. Robert Woods has a majority of the returns with 11 for 42 yards and Nickell Robey has 8 for 72 yards. Anthony Brown has returned one 21 yards for 1 touchdown too.

Stronger Unit: USC

Everything Else: Notre Dame is coming off a 38-0 win over Wake Forest which featured the defense posting its first shutout of the season. Golson was unstoppable through the air and the ground game got it going as well. With Matt Barkley out for USC at quarterback, it becomes for more difficult for them. However, they are still dangerous, especially with the receiving unit that is headlined by Marqise Lee, who is the best player on USC's roster as well. Notre Dame will need to get the running game going early and move the chains and control the clock. Golson should be able to build upon his strong performance last weekend and find his targets. Escaping pressure from the USC defense will be vital. Should Notre Dame win this one, they will remain the number one team in the nation and be going to the National Championship.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, USC 10

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