Thursday, October 13, 2005

ND-USC Match-Up

With the big game just a couple of days away, it's time to break down the match-ups between USC and Notre Dame.

USC Rushing vs. ND Rushing Defense
USC has one of the best offensive lines in the country and they also have two of the five top running backs in the country. Notre Dame has been shutting down the run all season, but they have yet to face as good of a rushing attack as USC.
Advantage: USC

USC Passing vs. ND Pass Defense
Um yeah we're f*&%ed.
Advantage: USC

ND Rushing vs. USC Rush Defense
USC has the 11th best run defense in the country. However, the only good rushing team they have faced all season was Arkansas (3rd in the country), and Arkansas ran for nearly 200 yards against the Trojans. With a talented and physical offensive line, there should be some holes for Darius. However, Darius cannot dance around like he usually does or the lightening fast USC linebackers will stuff him quickly. If Notre Dame can run the ball effectively, Notre Dame will have a much better chance to pull off the upset.
Advantage: Slightly Notre Dame

ND Passing vs. USC Pass Defense
This has been the Achilles Heel of the USC defense all year. USC's secondary is banged up, and their defensive line has not put enough pressure on the quarterback to make up for the injuries. Brady Quinn has been phenomenal all season and he will have plenty of targets to throw to on Saturday: Fasano, Walker, Samardzija, Shelton, Stovall, and hopefully, a fairly healthy Rhema McKnight. Not to mention, since the Michigan game, the offensive line has been outstanding in giving Quinn plenty of time to find the open receiver. If Notre Dame struggles to run the football, Notre Dame MUST be able to control the clock with the short passing attack or they won't have much of a chance to beat USC.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams
Notre Dame has a solid punter and place kicker. They also have solid kick return coverages. Zbikowski has shown flashes of being an outstanding punt returner. Notre Dame has struggled to find that kick returner who can break off that big return, though David Grimes might be that guy at some point.

As for USC, they have a punter who almost never punts and place kicker who kicks basically extra points. They have the best return man in the country in Reggie Bush. They have, however, been horrid in their kick return coverages, as every team they have faced this year including Hawaii, has ripped off at least one big return. Pete Carroll has vowed to clean up the piss poor kick coverage by putting a couple of the defensive starters on the kick coverage team. I would expect USC to be much improved in their kick return coverage on Saturday.
Advantage: Slightly USC

Pete Carroll is going to have his team ready to play. Carroll is an ego-manic, and I'm sure he has not taken too kindly to all of the people putting the genius label on Weis after just five games. I would be shocked if USC came out flat-footed like they have the last three games.

As for Notre Dame, there has not been this much buzz about a Notre Dame game since the 1993 "Game of the Century" between Notre Dame and Florida State. The crowd should be absolutely jacked up. Having two weeks to prepare to prepare for USC should help Notre Dame exponentially, as Notre Dame has an .800 winning percentage after a bye week since 1900.
Advantage: Notre Dame

There is a new era in Notre Dame. The team is playing with passion and poise not seen since the Lou Holtz days. The future look bright, especially when you consider the 19 verbal commitments already. However, Notre Dame does not have the horses this year to beat USC. Two years down the line will be a completely different story. This will not, however, be another 31-point beatdown. Notre Dame is too talented and too well-coached for that to happen again. Notre Dame will keep this game close into the 4th quarter before USC pulls away.

USC 49 Notre Dame 35