Can the Irish Beat the Trojans?

The big game is just days away. Notre Dame is 4-1 and riding high off a blowout win against Purdue and a week off to get healthy. USC, 5-0, seem to be able to do what they want when they want as the No. 1 team in the nation. Do the Irish really have a shot in this game? They do if they approach the game right.

725 yards last week, No. 1 offense, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Lendale White, Dwayne Jarrett, etc...

The media and I will certainly bring up all the reasons why Notre Dame should not, or as many will suggest, likely will not win the game on Saturday. But football still comes down to fundamentals and technique and attitude.

USC will come into Saturday's game extremely confident, and why not? They've embarrassed Notre Dame each of the past three seasons. Likely ¾ of their team has never known the feeling of losing a game while at USC. Teams keep lining up opposite the Trojans and they keeping mowing them down week after week.

USC seems to be able to score at will (almost 52 points per game), and their defense seems to always rise to the occasion.

It's obvious the Trojans have the most talent in the country right now and they're backing it up week after week by destroying every team they face.

But will they be too confident heading into this game?

Many people, including former Irish head coach Lou Holtz, seem to be hinting at a "Notre Dame moment." The deck certainly is stacked that way. The Irish are at home, they had an extra week to prepare, they have an explosive offense and an improving defense, and they appear to have found their confidence and maybe even a swagger. Could it be a Notre Dame moment?

Why should we feel this way? Yes, USC has struggled in the first half of their previous three games. Yes, they don't appear to be as focused as they've been in the past. Yes, the commit costly penalties and make more mental mistakes than we've seen in the past. But when this team is focused, they're nearly unstoppable.

But there is that feeling out there among many….that feeling that something isn't quite right in Trojan land. But can the Irish expose that weakness and play the nearly perfect game they'll need to beat this team?

What is it going take? I think the mental approach to this game could be the difference.

The Trojans have shown a penchant for starting slow, but I think they'll be focused on Saturday. But in the past the Irish would hang around for awhile and then they would eventually break down, and then the route began. What if Notre Dame keeps fighting back—keeps punching?

UCLA had that attitude last Saturday (something I didn't think they had) and they were rewarded for it.

Watching USC, it's almost as if you see these teams giving up. The second half starts and USC starts clicking off big play after big play and then suddenly the opposing team can't move the football anymore and more importantly, they can't score.

The Irish have a chance to upset USC because they should be able to score, regardless of what USC is doing on offense. That should be the difference between the three previous years and this year.

As long as ND can continue to score, they'll have a chance. But it's also important that the Irish don't quit on defense, and as long as Notre Dame is scoring, I don't think you'll see that happen.

"Nothing to lose" would likely be the battle cry in a game like this, but if the Irish want to get back to the top of college football "we don't lose, especially at home" needs to be the attitude. "We'll never quit" also should be a building block.

The good news is Charlie Weis has been an integral part of a team that won four Superbowls and he knows what it takes to win big games…he knows the mental approach that is needed to win a game like this. Can he get this team to buy into that? I'm going to guess yes.

Regardless, I'm excited to see what's going to happen on Saturday because I think you'll see an Irish team that's going to hit back for four quarters, and I don't think USC has seen that this year. If Notre Dame does come to play all four quarters, they'll have a chance to win.


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