Notre Dame at USC Pick ATS
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-0 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (5-6 SU, 3-8 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 24th, 8:00 PM
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Point Spread: ND-10 / USC +10
Over/Under Total: 61.5
Notre Dame heads west to take on USC for a Saturday night showdown at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game is played for the Jeweled Shillelagh Trophy, with Notre Dame holding an all-time advantage 47-37-5. The Irish have won four of the last six games in the series, but it has been the Trojans with the upper hand of late when playing at home, as they have put up a 6-2 record in the last eight meetings in California.
USC finds themselves in the midst of a 1-4 slide and just finished their Pac-12 season with a disappointing 4-5 record. After starting the year ranked in the top 20 its safe to label their season as a colossal disappointment, and that has head coach Clay Helton on the hot seat. He brought stability to the program after the previous misadventures with Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin, but his low-key approach has allowed for an undisciplined team that has done nothing to help in the standings and instead has alumni and fans alike calling for his dismissal.
WHEN USC PASSES
Part of the problem for USC begins at the quarterback position, where injuries eventually pushed freshman JT Daniels into starting duty. He has played well at times but for the season has a disappointing 13/10 TD-INT ratio while completing just 57% of his passes. His success has had a direct correlation on that of the teams, as they are 5-1 when he has a QB rating of 120 or higher but are 0-4 when he doesn’t. With the persistent struggles, it’s easy to see why the Trojans rank 83rd in scoring and 92nd in total offense.
Daniels’ top options in the passing game are a trio of wide receivers that have put up similar results throughout the season. Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns have all posted at least 34 receptions, 550 yards and three touchdowns apiece and have helped to offset the growing pains of the freshman Daniels. Much has recently been made that Daniels is over targeting his former high school teammate in St Brown so it will be an interesting side story to watch on Saturday to see just what happens with the receiver target share.
WHEN USC RUNS THE BALL
Another disappointing part of the USC offense is their running game, which ranks 102nd in the country in yards per game. They initially used a three-back attack, but injuries to two of those leaves the Trojans possibility shorthanded against the Irish. Stephen Carr missed their past game with a sprained ankle and lead back Aca’Cedric Ware injured his shoulder against UCLA, and his availability remains unknown for Saturday. If both are unable to suit up, that will leave just Vavae Malepeal as the lone experienced member of the backfield.
WHEN NOTRE DAME PASSES
Issues at the quarterback position are not something Notre Dame has had to deal with thanks to Ian Book. The junior signal caller ranks second in the country in completion percentage and 9th in total QB rating, and on the season has accounted for 21 total touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions. His primary options in the receiving game are NFL prototype Myles Boykin, underrated Chase Claypool, tight end Alize Mack and the speedy Chris Finke.
WHEN NOTRE DAME RUNS
The Irish backfield is undoubtedly looking forward to taking on a Trojan rush defense that ranks 69th in the country and just got torched a week ago by UCLA. Lead back Dexter Williams continues to terrorize opposing defenses and has scored 11 touchdowns through six games while rushing for 844 yards. Backing him up are viable scoring options Tony Jones Jr and Jafar Armstrong, both of whom have 377 rushing on the season and have combined to score ten touchdowns on the ground.
THE FINAL DECISION
With their win against Syracuse last week the Irish became the first team with 11 wins over FBS opponents and also the only one to score a victory over four teams currently ranked in the AP polls. They now need just one more win to clinch their first-ever spot in the BCS Playoffs, though standing in the way should be a motivated USC team looking to avoid there first losing season since 2000. With their coaches job possibly on the line, I expect an early motivated effort from the Trojans, but by games end you can count on Book and the Irish being too much too overcome and for Notre Dame to eventually escape LA with a win and cover to finish their regular season.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -10