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Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick.
USC Trojans (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS), 7:30 p.m. EST, College Football Week 8, Saturday, October 22, 2011 Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana, TV: NBC
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Southern Cal +8/ND -8
Over/Under Total: OFF
Make USC a +28 point underdog by placing them into a 20 point football teaser at 5Dimes.
The USC Trojans travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish on Saturday. This is a long-standing rivalry that should bring the best out of these two good teams. Notre Dame has won 4 straight after a disheartening 0-2 start and appears to be on the rise. The Trojans are 5-1 and a win here could kick their season into high gear. The term “crossroads game” is overused perhaps, but this is a game that will go a long way toward determining each team’s fate this season.
Both teams are coming off a break. USC last played on Thursday, so will enjoy a 9-day break, while the Irish have been off for a full two weeks following a bye-week. And fans have to like what they’ve been seeing from Notre Dame in the past month. The situation looked critical following a pair of losses to open the season-against South Florida and Michigan. Starting QB Dayne Crist was benched and a season that once appeared to have promise seemed on the verge of disintegration.
Everybody from the coaching staff to the players deserves credit for soldiering through that period of the season and turning things squarely around in their favor. Wins over Michigan State, Pitt, Purdue, and Air Force righted the ship. With 3 covers in their past 4 wins, the Irish have restored some confidence in the betting public. It’s fair to say they are better than their 4-2 record, hardened and galvanized by overcoming tribulations.
USC had a nice win on Thursday, battering Cal 30-9. Their only setback this year was a somewhat-puzzling 3-touchdown loss at Arizona State. Besides that, the Trojans have had it mostly their way, though they have only covered the spread 3 out of 6 times. At the same time, certain results prevent one from thinking this is in anyway a prime USC team-a mere 2-point win over woeful Minnesota at home and barely winning a track meet against an awful Arizona team, 48-41.
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With QB Matt Barkley enjoying a fine season with a cast of capable playmakers, expect the Irish “D” to be tested and then some. Both Barkley (19-35) and top WR Robert Woods (5-36) had slow games against Cal. While it gave a chance for other playmakers to step up and make their presence felt, look for the Trojans to push the Barkley-Woods connection more in this game.
Similarly, the Irish have been allowing their receiving corps to develop more depth, relying less and less exclusively on the Tommy Rees-Michael Floyd connection. Slowly, you can see other playmakers like WRs Theo Reddick, Tyler Eifert, and TJ Jones getting into the mix, which can only make life hard on opposing defenses. Still, Woods and Floyd are two of the best pass catchers in the nation and fans should expect a showcase of sorts.
USC has a few talented backs in Marc Tyler (injured) and Curtis McNeal, but the more balanced offense probably belongs to the Irish. Notre Dame RBs Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray make for a nice combo and even QB Andrew Hendrix has been electric in limited time as a pocket scrambler. On special teams, George Atkinson III is a constant threat to break one.
How well the Trojans defense matches up with Notre Dame is still to be determined, but they have been tough against the run this season, giving up under 100 yards per game. If they force the Irish to take to the air more than what they would like, they might be able to prevent the Irish from unleashing the diverse attack they have shown in the past month. But the Irish “D” has also been robust, allowing under 14 points in 3 of their last 4 games. Even in giving up 33 last game to Air Force, that was more of a case of the Irish letting their foot off the gas late after running away with the game.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It’s noteworthy that the oddsmakers are asking the Irish to do something they haven’t done in a decade—beat the Trojans by more than a touchdown. In all fairness, most of those USC teams were far better than this version. In addition, this might be one of the better Irish squads to come around in a decade or so. This is actually one of the stronger bets on the board this week. Bet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win by 2+ scores and I’ll see you at the cashiers cage after the game!
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