Between the Lines

The hours are counting down until the big game. The Trojans come to town and many Irish fans are anticipating a victory. Here are some numbers to keep in mind for Saturday.

Many Irish fans are extremely excited about the game on Saturday, but they might want to keep that excitement in check until after the game. I went digging for some interesting stats and numbers about the two teams for Saturday's game. Unfortunately I found some pretty darn impressive and depressing USC statistics. While the Irish certainly have a chance to win, the numbers show it will take a monumental effort in all three facets of the game—offense, defense and special teams. Let's look at some numbers.

*The Irish are just 8-15-1 when facing the top-ranked team, but they've won three of their last five contests against the number-one ranked team.

*Notre Dame is 26-4 coming off a bye week since 1984.

*How good is the Trojan offense? USC ranks first nationally with 640 yards per game. Their on pace to shatter the NCAA record of 624.9 yards per game set by Houston in 1989. The Trojans are also on track to shatter the total yards per season mark of 7,576 yards set by Texas Tech in 2003. The Trojans are on pace to amass 8,325 total yards in 2005 if they continue on the same pace.

*USC is averaging 8.1 per play. If they continue on that pace they would break Army's NCAA record of 7.9 set in 1945.

*USC is also on pace to have a 3,000-yard passer, a pair of 1,000-yard receivers and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, which would be a feat never accomplished in NCAA history.

*USC has held 32 of their last 44 opponents under 100 yards rushing and has allowed just two 100-yard rushers in the past 40 games.

*For those thinking shootout---USC hasn't allowed a single team to score more than 28 points in their 27-game winning streak.

*USC's lowest offensive output this season is an impressive 518 yards versus Hawaii in their first game of the season. Surprisingly, the Trojan's 724 yards of total offense in their game last weekend against Arizona is actually their second-highest total this year as the USC offense rolled up 736 yards on Arkansas earlier in the year.

*Something's gotta give: The Trojans average +1.2 in turnover margin this year and have forced 12 turnovers on the season, including 10 interceptions in 5 games. The Irish have committed just six turnovers as a team and have forced 12 turnovers in five games as well. One of the two teams will likely win the turnover battle, and the victor might have the upper hand in winning the war.

*Something's gotta give II: The Trojans are converting 56 percent (ranked No. 1) of their third down opportunities. Notre Dame has held their opposition to just a 30 percent conversion rate. This stat at the end of the game might be the most important.

*Notre Dame has rolled up 500 yards or more in four games this season—the first team to do so since the 1996 Irish team—and the '96 offensive squad ended the season with four 500-yard performances. Could a new record be in sight?

*Not so special teams: The Trojans are ranked No. 110 out of 117 teams in net punting, 103 in punt returns, 111 in punt return yardage defense and 110 in kickoff return yardage defense.

*ESPN's College Gameday will be in attendance on Saturday. Notre Dame is 3-3 when the popular show is hosted outside Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish won in '93 against Florida Sate (31-24), lost to Michigan (24-36) in '94, won against USC (38-10) in '95, lost to Ohio State (16-29) in '96, won against Michigan (36-20) in '98 and lost to Nebraska (24-27) in '00. Let's see, W, L, W, L, W, L…….?

*Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija's eight touchdown receptions are just three off the single-season record held by former great Derrick Mayes (11, 1994). Samardzija has caught a touchdown in five straight games and is one off the record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception held by former receiver Malcom Johnson ('96).

The game is shaping up to be another classic in what many consider the greatest intersectional rivalry in all of college football. It's clear the Irish will have to play their best game of the season to win.


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