Jeff Baumhower (Co-Publisher/Recruiting Analyst): Notre Dame has shaken off the effects of the midseason losses to Navy and Tulsa, as well as several key injuries suffered throughout the season. Brian Kelly appears to have righted the ship, due to his dedication to running the football, and keeping the game plan simple for freshman quarterback Tommy Rees. I expect to see the same type of game plan on offense against USC with a few wrinkles. The USC defense has not been very good this season, and I expect the Irish will put some points on the board.
Defensively the Irish are playing very well, as Bob Diaco is finally getting comfortable with his personnel. USC still has a lot of firepower on offense, so Notre Dame will need a big effort from its defense. USC has the best group of wide receivers the Irish have seen all season. Conversely, Notre Dame likely has the best group of corners USC has faced to date. The Irish front seven for the Irish is starting to gel, and will face a banged up USC front. 7-5 looks better in the books for the Irish than 6-6. In this game, Kelly calls on Lou Groza finalist David Ruffer in the closing seconds and Ruffer drives home the point(s)
Notre Dame 30 USC 28
Dave Berk (Scout.com/IrishEyes Staff): Brian Kelly has the Irish playing their best football of the year the past couple of weeks. With a defense that has only given up one touchdown in the past three games. Kelly knows his offense is going to need a little more against the Trojans. Look for Kelly to rev up the passing attack against a team that on paper should be expected to beat the Irish.
The Irish have caught their breath by being bowl eligible; however, a win over USC would push the program another step in the right direction. Kelly has done well on the west coast in the past and picks up an upset victory over the Trojans 30-27
Morrissey79 (Moderator): Has Notre Dame officially turned the corner? For most Irish fans, the answer is not quite yet; however, there are a lot of positive signs that show Coach Kelly has this thing going in the right direction. The team has played physical, the team has played passionate, the team has played inspired football – all of these things have been very evident since the Navy loss (despite the loss to Tulsa, the team played with tremendous effort given the circumstances of that weekend).
For me USC is the barometer of where this thing is headed – this will arguably be the most talented team we face this season. They are fast, they are strong, they are big, and they are more athletic at multiple positions. On the other hand, this isn't the USC team of the last decade, and they are most certainly beatable, just look at Oregon State demolition of the Trojan defense last week.
Key for the Irish – continue to control the football and tempo of the game, continue to play passionate defense, continue to know their roles and not press at times when they need to, and come up with a couple big plays early in the game to deflate the Trojan players. These guys really have nothing to play for, and if the Irish can put some points up early and stop the Trojan offense (which most likely will be without Matt Barkley), then the Irish can pull of this huge victory for the program. ND 27 USC 21
BNolan (Moderator): For obvious reasons, this will serve as USC's bowl game. (Add to that the chippie factor after getting trounced by Oregon State last week.) Despite being 'down', despite having some significant injuries, despite being led by a hyper-annoying coach, this game will be tough for the Irish, to say the least. And... it's in the hostile environs of the crumbling castle known as The Coliseum.
Yes, ND has rebounded, to some degree, from the Navy debacle. There are tangible signs of growth. But ND still has a freshman QB at the helm, who does a lot of good things, but is still a very mortal freshman QB. The obvious names are missing from the roster, big names. Youngsters are indeed attempting to add credence to the 'next man in' mantra. Both teams have injuries, it's part of the game. USC has more star-laden depth, (i.e. Mustain stepping in).
Both teams strike me as being in a precarious position in that if knocked over, they have a hard time getting back up. If either gets up early, the onus on the other to play catch up is challenging. Mistakes will write the script for this chapter in the historical saga. Who makes the biggest, who makes the fewest. Turnovers, penalties, and botched plays. Logic dictates a Trojan win, even with the visible, and seemingly widening, cracks in their armor. I'll very possibly have to eat my words, with fava beans, but... I'll give a nod to long dormant Irish thunder (and some luck). ND 27, USC 24
KurzND (Moderator): This year's contest seems particularly interesting as SC has looked bad early (against Hawaii) and late (Oregon State), however they pounded Cal and gave Stanford all they wanted. ND has had the injury bug on offense and will be lead by true freshman Tommy Rees. As of late the Irish defense has come to life, holding the high scoring teams of Utah, Tulsa, and Army to just under 7 points per contest.
This weekend, it seems there is a matchup of strength vs. strength. The Trojan defense has looked lost this year, while ND's offense disappears at times...each week. SC's offense has plenty of firepower with Allen Bradford, Ronald Johnson, and freshman Robert Woods. As long as Rees protects the ball and the Irish offense makes the most of their opportunities (no INT in the end zone a la Tulsa and Army) and the D keeps its high intensity level, I predict Irish fans will be dancing the Victory Clog for the first time since 2001. Notre Dame 24 Southern Cal 22
GaviND (Moderator): Does the streak come to an end on Saturday? That is what everyone in ND Nation is wondering. Eight straight years of losing by an average spread of 24.5 is enough, isn't it?
Notre Dame has finally hit their stride over the last two weeks and for the first time in years, the defense is clicking on all cylinders. Eight straight quarters of nearly flawless defense has breathed new life into a once meager group and the looks of indecision and uncertainty have been replaced by confidence and swagger.
In order to continue their clean sheet in November, however, they need to bring constant pressure on USC's quarterback (whether it is Barkley or Mustain) and make sure the Trojans track stars on the outside, Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods, do not get behind them.
USC's pass defense is porous, so opportunity lies in the passing game. In order for that to work and for Tommy Rees to be effective, the ND offensive line needs to create running lanes for Cierre Wood and keep Rees upright...against a more than formidable opponent.
Winning this game will be a major chore for the Irish and it will require an almost perfect mental performance.
In the end, USC overcomes their injuries and exploits ND's lack of team speed.
USC 38 Notre Dame 24
SeattleND (Moderator): Notre Dame plays its first game this season against a team with more talent on paper, but also plays its first game this season against a first year coaching staff, and in the case of USC it is Monte Kiffin having the growing pains. Rees, Eifert, Wood/Gray/Hughes and Toma have stepped up as the next men in, but the real story of Notre Dame's resurgence is the play of the offensive line, which will go up against the best defensive line they will see this year in USC.
Look for a quick, short passing game plan with lots of screens and swing passes to use the USC line's aggressiveness against them and to get our playmakers in space against a less than stellar USC secondary. A limited mobility Barkley or a rather rusty Mustain are tailor made for ND's defense, a unit most definitely now playing its best ball of the season. Notre Dame 27 USC 13
Weisass (Moderator): USC has been a pain in our side for the past 8 years. We have a new coach and hopefully a new attitude heading in to LA this weekend. I really don't know what to expect from the Irish as they've lost to the teams I thought they'd beat and won the games I thought they'd lose.
Tommy Rees isn't flashy, but he takes command of the game without making huge mistakes. Oregon State torched USC last weekend. Let's just hope they don't take out their revenge on us. I look for Mitch Mustain to take the snaps for the Trojans.
I really hope the Irish show up and not lay an egg. I also hope Manti and Shembo rattle some helmets and keep Mitch running for his life. This is the season we break the curse. Irish 21 U$C 17