No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-0 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Southern California Trojans (7-4 SU, 3-8 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Saturday, November 24th, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND -6.5/USC +6.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the No. 1-ranked team in the country for the first time since 1993, and are one victory away from completing the dream season and reaching the BCS Championship game with only longtime rival Southern Cal standing in their way.
All eyes will be tuned into ABC on Saturday night when the Trojans host the Irish in the L.A. Coliseum, to see if Notre Dame can finish the task and punch their ticket into the national title game in Miami on January 7th.
The Irish have gotten to the pinnacle of the BCS mountain by taking care of the “weak” portion of their schedule, scoring some style points along the way with a, 38-0, drilling of Wake Forest at home in South Bend last Saturday. Once again the Irish will rely on a defense that’s only allowing 10 points per game (2nd in FBS), as they take on an old nemesis in the Trojans in the Coliseum.
But all is not well in So. Cal these days.
The preseason No. 1-ranked Trojans have free-fallen out of the top-20 this season with four, yes four, losses including an embarrassing and unthinkable loss to cross-town rival UCLA last Saturday, 38-28. To make matters worse, quarterback Matt Barkley was knocked out of the game with a AC sprain in his throwing shoulder and will not be able to play against the Irish, meaning redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get his first collegiate start against the heralded Notre Dame defense in the biggest game of the season.
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But one aspect that can’t be overlooked is the fact that USC has been in this role before, knocking their hated rival Irish from the ranks of the unbeaten six different times over the 83-game history between the two storied programs, including the last time it happened in 1980.
Since the Notre Dame-USC game is always considered one of thee games in college football every season, it’s also one of the games that has a “futures-like” betting line on it back in August before the season even starts. Back then the Trojans were considered a 6-point favorite if you wanted to take the action.
But what a difference a season makes. With Notre Dame undefeated and one win away, and USC without their Heisman-hopeful QB Barkley for the huge game, oddsmakers have set the opening point spread for Saturday’s tilt with the Irish as 6-point favorites on the road in L.A. for a complete role reversal just three short months later.
As of press time the over/under total is still off the board.
With Wittek taking over for Barkley there are so many questions surrounding the Trojans offense that it’s made this game ten times harder to handicap. Will Wittek be ready for the speed of the college game? Will he be ready for the speed of Manti Te’o, Dan Fox, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Stephon Tuitt and the Irish front seven? Will the Trojans weakened offensive line be able to handle the speed of the Irish defense?
USC still has plenty of talent on offense with Silas Redd, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods all extremely dangerous, but if Wittek is on his back or slow to make his reads the Trojans might not able to get those guys enough touches to make plays. One thing I know is for certain this game against Notre Dame has become the Trojans PAC-12 championship, bowl bid and BCS title game all rolled into one ginormous game, so don’t be surprised if they come out fired up with a determination and motivation they haven’t shown yet this season.
The question all year long that’s been hounding the Irish is whether or not the offense could score enough to keep them in the BCS hunt. Notre Dame’s three-headed attack on the ground with running backs Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III has done a great job of grinding it out (200.7 ypg - 33rd in FBS) to keep the pressure off of quarterback Everett Golson to take on too much, but the USC defense is not a Wake Forest, Navy or Miami, so don’t expect the Irish to run it up. The Irish’s best attack will likely be to go straight at the Trojans defense to try and negate their speed, making them play a physical, 60-minute game to try and wear them down the type of game the Trojans were forced to play in their loss to Stanford back in September.
USC has owned the rivalry over Notre Dame the past decade, winning nine of the last 10 games overall and in usually lopsided fashion. However, the only Irish victory during that span came the last time they traveled to the Coliseum in 2010 in a, 20-16, upset. Ironically, Barkley also missed that game due to injury, so it will be interesting to see if the Irish can take advantage of the Trojans second-string QB again this year.
The Coliseum has been a source of bad memories for the Irish over the years as well, since they are just 1-4 ATS in their last five trip there with the only cover coming in the aforementioned game in 2010 (as 4.5-point dogs).
Once a total is released it will likely be a low number due to Wittek going for the Trojans at QB and the documented issues of the Irish offense, but take a hard look at the under since it’s 4-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings. The under is also 6-1 in USC’s last seven home games, and 7-1-1 in the Irish’s last nine on the road.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I like the Trojans to cover here. Wittek is going to be a household name within the next couple years and Saturday’s game will show you why. Furthermore, as evidenced by Bama, K-State and Oregon going down, it’s TOUGH to go undefeated. USC will surely be bringing their best effort to knock off the Fighting Irish and I think that’s exactly what they’re going to do. I’m taking USC plus the points plus a lunch money bet straight up on the moneyline.
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