I have to call it like I see it this week. I've thought the Irish had a legitimate chance to win in every game they've played this year. I haven't predicted them to win every week, but I felt they had a chance to win every game going into the game.
I don't think the Irish have a chance in this game. In fact, I don't think the Irish can keep the score close in this game.
Why? USC matches up very well with the Irish, and I just don't see the motivating factors to inspire the Irish to victory this week.
Matt Leinart shredded the Irish defense last season in South Bend to the tune of 351 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Leinart is an accurate quarterback who gets the ball out of his hands quickly--sounds like Kyle Orton to me.
The Trojans love to throw to their running backs and tight ends—a strategy that has haunted the Irish defense for the past two seasons.
Sophomore Reggie Bush is second on the team in receptions (34) and has scored six touchdowns through the air. He'd rank second in receptions and tied for first in touchdowns with those numbers on Notre Dame's team—and he's a running back.
Tight end Dominique Byrd would also rank second on the team in receptions at Notre Dame with 28.
Both players could spell doom for Notre Dame's linebackers and secondary on Saturday.
I expect to see plenty of Bush, Byrd and tight end Alex Holmes on Saturday as the Trojans spread out the Irish defense and then stretch it vertically—something USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow has done very effectively to the Irish in the two previous contests.
The Irish also don't match up well against USC on offense. The Trojans are ranked second in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 69 yards per game.
The Irish have proven time and time again in previous games that they struggle to score points if they can't run the football effectively.
Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn is coming off one of his best games in an Irish uniform against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. However, the Trojans are also ranked No. 5 in pass efficiency defense, and have recorded and impressive 42 sacks on the season.
Throw in the fact that the Trojans are a few games away from playing for their second National Championship--and the Irish only have pride to play for--and you have the makings of a blowouts. Especially considering the Irish have been manhandled to the tune of 31-point losses the two previous contests against the Trojans.
The Irish have nothing to lose and I believe that will result in some imaginative play calling on Saturday, but I just don't think the Irish have enough to play for in this game to make a game of it.
I just can't see Notre Dame scoring much against this Trojan defense and I can see USC's offense scoring quite a bit against a demoralized Irish defense.
USC: 38 Notre Dame: 10