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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC-Notre Dame Betting Preview

Max Meyer |
October 18, 2013 | 11:39 a.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor


Can Coach Orgeron lead the Trojans to another victory? (Neon Tommy)
Can Coach Orgeron lead the Trojans to another victory? (Neon Tommy)
USC 4-2 (2-4 ATS) at Notre Dame 4-2 (2-4 ATS)

Saturday, October 19th at 4:30 p.m. PST on NBC

Latest Odds: USC (+3) and Over/Under 51.5

In the 85th edition of "The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh", USC and Notre Dame are both in desperate need of a win after each team has suffered two early losses. 

USC is coming off of a 38-31 win over Arizona in Ed Orgeron's debut as USC's head coach. The Trojans dominated for the first three quarters, but the defense looked tired late in the game, which allowed the Wildcats to have a big fourth quarter. This is the second consecutive game that USC's defense has slowed down at the end of games, so the question of whether or not the sanctions and lack of depth is starting to hurt the defense is a legitimate one. 

Additionally, USC's defense has not been forcing turnovers of late. In their last four games, the Trojans only have one takeaway. In order to beat Notre Dame this weekend, USC will need to make a few game-changing plays on defense.

In Notre Dame's four wins, the Irish have six takeaways compared to only two giveaways. In their two losses however, the Irish have turned the ball over a whopping five times, and only forced one turnover. 

The biggest key in this game though will be quarterback play. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has led the 53rd-best passing attack in college football, but he's struggled against USC in his career.

In his first game against the Trojans in 2010, he completed 20 of 32 passes for 149 yards, to go along with two touchdowns and three interceptions. In 2011, he played even worse, completing 23 of 37 passes for 190 yards and one pick. 

Rees is only completing 51.2 percent of his passes this season, and he'll need to make some big throws to beat the Trojans. USC's run defense is still the 15th-best unit in the country, surrendering only 107.2 yards per game. Teams have stacked the box this year against the Irish and have been daring Rees to throw, but I don't think USC can afford to do that strategy.

MORE: Behind Enemy Lines: Trojans March East To Notre Dame

The Irish have a trio of pass-catching weapons in T.J. Jones, DaVaris Daniels and Troy Niklas. That will provide problems for USC's secondary, which has had two consecutive lackluster games against Arizona State and Arizona. The secondary has been hit by injuries, and they've been very susceptible to big plays over that stretch. 

On the other side, USC quarterback Cody Kessler will be playing in his first road rivalry game. The Trojans also seem to play much worse away from home. In fact, if you count last year's Sun Bowl too, the Trojans have not covered the spread in eight consecutive road games. 

Kessler may be getting Marqise Lee back for this game, as he's listed as probable after missing last week's game against Arizona. Notre Dame covered Lee well last season, holding him to only five catches for 75 yards. That same cornerback who had Lee most of the game, Keivarae Russell, is back this year and will have the same assignment. 

Notre Dame's defense isn't the same as last year's, as they've already given up at least 34 points in three of their six games. USC's passing attack is averaging fewer than 200 yards per game, so the Irish shouldn't have to worry about an offensive explosion. 

The Fighting Irish have more depth and are healthier as a team. They are coming off a bye, so they've had two weeks to prepare for USC. Coach Brian Kelly is 11-3 in his career coming off of a bye week. Notre Dame also has a huge coaching edge, as most of USC's staff is relatively new. Add in Notre Dame's home atmosphere, and it's simply too much to not take the Irish this week.

Final Score Prediction: Notre Dame 27, USC 20

My Best Bet: Notre Dame -3


Reach Senior Sports Editor Max Meyer by email.

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