I've labored over this game going back and forth with which team to pick all week. Simple logic tells me that USC will win by 10 or more.
Yes, the Irish have improved dramatically on offense. Yes, we've seen an improving defense. Yes, Notre Dame clearly has made a significant upgrade in coaching over the previous three years. But is that enough?
Normally I would pick the Irish because I don't think USC has faced a team near as physical as they're going to face on Saturday, but the thing that really scares me is their running game.
Notre Dame has been OK against the run this season--some suggest really good--but any time you're allowing teams to rush for over 100 yards per game, and you have the No. 1 rushing offense coming to town, that's cause for concern.
Any time you're ranked 114th in pass defense and you also have a top five passing team coming in, that's cause for concern.
Notre Dame has both the top-ranked rushing offense and a top five passing team coming to South Bend on Saturday, and I'm sorry but they're going to be almost impossible to stop or likely even slow down.
Most Irish fans feel if Notre Dame can just keep the Trojan's big playmakers in front of them that they'll win the game. Normally I would agree. Logic would suggest putting USC in a short field would level the playing field for the Irish and hopefully they could limit the USC offense to just three points instead of seven.
But it's the running game that scares me. I think USC can run the ball effectively, even if you shorten the field and take away the threat of the big play.
The game of football still comes down to "want to." Which team wants to win this game more?
In the nine months of following Irish head coach Charlie Weis I've learned one thing: The Irish come to play. They're well coached, they always have a good game plan, and they come to play.
Mike Frank Prediction
Ah hell, give me the damn Kool-Aid. I've got to believe…..
Some how, some way the Irish find a way to stay with USC for three quarters and a crazed Irish crowd lifts Notre Dame to victory in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame: 34 USC: 31