November 24, 2010

Week 13 Pick: Notre Dame - USC

Dan: USC

We haven’t beaten USC in almost a decade at this point. During that time, their average margin of victory has been 25 points. I have seen nothing this year to expect anything different – regardless of which QB starts. They will have success running the ball. Their WRs will make plays. And their athletic defense will cause us problems. We are starting a freshman QB on the road for the first time. 

USC 38 Notre dame 20

Jeremy: Notre Dame

If you had told me 4 weeks ago that I’d be picking ND in this game, I would have slapped you right upside the head.  But I think Brian Kelly’s got some magic in him and the time is ripe for this godforsaken streak to end.  The matchup really depends upon the health of Matt Barkley – if he plays, and plays effectively, SC should win the game.  But if he’s out (and most reports suggest he will be), or at least hobbled, then ND has a good chance to prevail.  The Irish defense has turned into a very effective unit, holding several opponents to some of their lowest offensive outputs of the year (Army, Tulsa, Utah, and yes, even Michigan and Stanford).  If ND can bottle up the SC running game and force a limping Barkley, or a rusty Mustain to beat them, I like ND’s chances.

On offense, Kelly has been keeping things simple for Tommy Rees and trying to work on the running game.  The OL has improved, but still has a ways to go with the run blocking (I’m looking at you Trevor Robinson).  Cierre Wood has improved, but not as much as ND fans would like – he’s still got quite a ways to go to become an effective every-down back.  Rumors have the Irish getting Tai’ler Jones and Theo Riddick back, at least in limited duty.  I’m not certain how much of an impact this might have, as Rees seems very familiar with guys like Roby Toma and Duval Kamara, who have been running the 2nd team offense for most of the year.

This pick presumes Barkley won’t play, or won’t be effective, requiring Mustain to take the majority of the snaps.  I don’t think it’ll be pretty, and it will probably be touch-and-go for most of the game, but I see the Irish defense continuing to lead the way (who’da thunk it a year ago?) and helping ND win another big one.

ND 23  USC 20
Jimmy: Notre Dame

The towel that was pitched in on this season has been reclaimed.  I was wrong to think there wasn't some fight left in this group.  Now they have a great chance to exorcise some demons with a trip to the Colosseum.  Everyone figured the Trojans would have a letdown year with the regime change, NCAA sanctions looming large, defections among the ranks, a QB injury that's still up in the air and a grade-A chump for a coach.  It's not exactly the Christian thing to kick someone when they're down, but this is college football and you can't let opportunities pass when gift-wrapped like this.  The storied cross-country rivalry between these programs has been one of runs.  USC has currently won 8 straight ('02-'09) on the heels of each school winning 3 in a row (ND - '99-'01; USC - '96-'98).  Before that, ND didn't lose for 13 straight seasons ('83-'95).  Prior to that, USC reeled off 5 wins ('78-'82).  In fact, the only two wins ND notched from '67-'82 came in championship campaigns.  

What's all this mean?  Not much until another streak starts.  I have a feeling that day will come Saturday.  Kelly has the team brimming with confidence (as much confidence a team can have with a true freshman QB making his 3rd start and first true road game).  Te'o and the defense is out to prove that the naysayers (myself included) are a bunch of ninnys.  Cierre Wood makes a splash in a homecoming of sorts.  The Fighting Irish throw this gorilla off their back and return to South Bend with the jeweled shillelagh.  

ND 29  USC 24

Matt: Notre Dame

Let me just start out by saying what a great experience the ND-Army ‘barnstorming’ game was last week.  Ok, I live in NYC, so it couldn’t have been more convenient, but nevertheless it was a tremendously fun weekend.  If you’re going with your family or want to soak up the ‘Notre Disney’ experience off-campus, ND offers everything from Mass with Fr. Jenkins, to pep rallies, band performances, the traveling bookstore.  If you’re looking to reunite with college buddies, there is no shortage of ND dominated bars to relive the glory days.  I would have no problem if Swarbrick had a barnstorming game every year, just rotating between New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and maybe San Fran when we’re not playing in LA.  Hit the big markets, both for fans and recruits, and line up some decent competition.  The Miami game in Chicago will be great, and ditto for the game at Cowboys Stadium.  I encourage everyone to check out at least one of these games.

As for the games this weekend…  I’ve been saying all week that this is the biggest game for the program since 1993.  It started out as a joke, but I think I’ve finally talked myself into it.  Ok, the 2005 USC game was pretty big, but even the most ardent Brian Kelly hater would admit that this is the best that a Notre Dame team has looked in November in….years?  A decade?  Since ’93?  The defense has morphed into a dominant unit the past three games, and the offense has been explosive at times under true freshman Tommy Rees while the injuries have piled up.  But a USC loss would bring all of that optimism crashing down, and allow everyone to just point out that Utah was vastly overrated, and well, you’re supposed to beat Army 27-3.

It’s no secret that Notre Dame is not in a rivalry with USC anymore.  A true rivalry entails both teams winning, and USC has absolutely embarrassed Notre Dame for the last decade.  44-13.  45-14.  41-10.  44-24.  38-0.  38-3.  Those are some of the scores from the Oughts.  The streak HAS to end this year.  USC is not that good.  Barkley is hobbled, if he plays at all.  USC has nothing to play for.  The crowd should be 50-50.  There are no excuses this year.  Let’s end the streak, go play Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, finish the season on a four game winning streak, and all of a sudden we’re looking at something substantial heading into next season.  Enjoy the win Irish fans!

Notre Dame 27 USC 23 (with Barkley)
Notre Dame 30 USC 16 (without Barkley)
Mike: Notre Dame

It would be easy to buy into the Irish after the past few weeks, but I am not totally convinced yet.  Utah appeared to be a nice combination of uninspired and overrated, while Army wasn’t exactly trotting out Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis into Yankee Stadium.  I don’t mean to take anything away from the team, which has played hard in every game, but I doubt that this team is ready to win at USC.

As for the Trojans, last week’s loss to Oregon State, which had just lost convincingly at home against Wazzu, was a real stunner.  Despite some inconsistencies, USC had been playing reasonably well for most of the year, including wins at Arizona and a near miss at Stanford, but they simply laid an egg in Corvallis.  Regardless of whether Matt Barkley plays, I expect the sight of the gold helmets to bring out the best in USC.  Unfortunately, the losing streak against the Trojans continues for the Irish.

USC 31 Notre Dame 20

No comments: