Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ten Things Notre Dame Must Do to Beat USC

There is no question that USC will be Notre Dame's toughest test of the season. USC has won 27 consecutive games and has quite possibly the greatest offense in NCAA history. USC is a two touchdown favorite. So what will it take for Notre Dame to pull off the upset? Here are ten things Notre Dame must do to beat USC.

1) Dominate the time of possession battle
As well as Notre Dame's offense has played, it does not have the firepower to win a 56-49 type game against USC. The easiest way to slow down USC's offense is to keep them off the field.

2) Win the turnover battle
When you're playing a much more talented team, the great equalizer is to force more turnovers than you give up, just ask any team that has played the Patriots in the post-season over the past five years.

3) Pressure the quarterback
If Notre Dame generates the same pressure on the quarterback they have against Washington and Purdue, Matt Leinart might have the first ever 1,000 yard game. The easiest way to slow down the USC passing attack is to pressure Leinart.

4) Adequate play from the secondary
The USC passing attack is a lot like Michael Jordan in his prime. You cannot stop it, you can only hope to contain it. What this means for the Notre Dame secondary is that they have to limit the big pass plays. They can't let Leinart throw a screen pass to Reggie Bush and let Bush runs 60 yards down the field untouched. They can't blow pass coverage assignments. In addition, Zbikowski and Ndukwe cannot bite so easily on the play action passes as they have or Leinart is going to throw downfield with great success. If the Irish can limit USC to less than 325 yards passing, then the secondary has had a successful day.

5) Hold Bush and Lendale White under 200 yards of total offense
Leinart, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett are all outstanding players, but the USC offense starts with Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Without Bush and White, defenses could blitz Leinart all day and the USC passing attack would be no were near as effective. Again, much like the USC passing game, Notre Dame is not going to stop Bush or White, but they must limit their big plays. They cannot allow them to run for 300 yards in half like ASU did two weeks ago or allow Bush to have 150 yards receiving.

6) No special teams mistakes
It's pretty hard to beat a more talented team when throw away points on botched snaps or botched holds on field goal attempts or if you give away points on blown kick return coverage or snap the ball over the punter's head.

7) Score over 30 points
Even if Notre Dame plays its best defensive game of the season, USC will still score at least 28 points, hence, Notre Dame is going to need to put up a lot of points. With the Notre Dame offense clicking all season, facing a banged-up USC secondary and Weis having two weeks to game plan, this should be the easiest thing on this list to accomplish.

8) Limit Penalties
When you need to score a lot of points and stopping the USC offense is going to be a significant challenge, penalties from either side of the ball by the Irish will absolutely kill.

9) Don't Get Complacent When You Get the Lead
I would not be surprised if Notre Dame is up by one or two touchdowns at halftime; however, the Irish offense and defense has to play the entire game like it's 0-0, otherwise we could see another Oregon or ASU type game. USC has no fear about about playing from behind and it seems like when they get behind, USC starts to play up to its potential, which is a very scary thought.

10) Get a little lucky
You don't beat a team that has won 27 in row and a two touchdown favorite without getting some bounces going your way such as injuries suffered during the game by USC, calls going the Irish's way, a batted ball landing in Irish defensive back's hands, etc.