Game Prediction

The Notre Dame football team will have a mountain of a task to beat Southern Cal this weekend. The Trojans certainly look the part of one of the nation's best teams. The Irish are trying to find a spark. Can the Irish beat USC on Saturday?

Last week Irish head coach Charlie Weis spoke about playing a team with a coaching staff that knew they weren't going to be around the following year. As he correctly stated, that staff could do whatever they wanted on both offense and defense because there were no consequences if they failed—they were leaving anyway.

It's strange how Weis and his staff could be in the same position this week. There has been much speculation about Weis and his future this week, and it certainly has to be a distraction to both the players and the coaching staff. But it could also be a good thing for Notre Dame. After all, what does Weis have to lose by throwing caution to the wind in this game?

The odds makers have predicted this game to be a blowout with the Trojans a 30-plus point favorite. Nobody expects the Irish to even play the Trojans tough on Saturday. But I wonder about the Irish. Will they lie down and accept this fate on Saturday, or is there any fight left in the Fighting Irish> I think it will be interesting to see how excited the Irish are to play this game.

Notre Dame offense versus the Trojan defense

This matchup is where the game will be won and lost Saturday. Notre Dame has about zero chance of winning the game on Saturday if they can't run the ball. The bad news is the Irish managed just 48 yards rushing against many of the same Trojans last season. Considering the Irish could only rush for 41 yards against the nation's No. 102-ranked rushing defense last week, this does not look very promising for Notre Dame.

However, this is where the Irish can get creative. As I mentioned before, Weis and his staff really have very little to lose by throwing everything they have at the Trojans. I'd expect Notre Dame to come out with a lot of plays we haven't seen in a very long time. Notre Dame's best chance to run on Saturday is to loosen up the very strong Trojan defense.

Even if the Irish do have some early success against USC, they're going to have a hard time scoring on this team. The Trojans are ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 8.3 points per game. That's outstanding.

The Irish will have to hope for a number of big plays on Saturday because they'll likely find it very difficult to drive the length of the field on the Trojans most of the game.

Notre Dame offense versus the Trojan defense

This is another matchup that doesn't favor Notre Dame. USC has a very good running game, averaging over 208 yards rushing per game. That usually is a bad sign for the Irish as the Trojans can control the clock and momentum if they can run on Saturday.

Notre Dame simply needs a gargantuan effort out of the Irish defense on Saturday. The Irish defense will have to play their best game of the season, and somehow hold a team that's averaging almost 40 points per game to under 20.

The best way to do that would be to stop the Trojan rushing attack. USC quarterback Mark Sanchez is a good quarterback, but he's struggled at times when under pressure. Notre Dame's only hope is to stop the run and then to get after Sanchez---two things they haven't done particularly well this season.

But like Weis, Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta also have little to fear by calling a very aggressive game on Saturday. I expect you'll see just that out of the Irish defense. I expect to see a very aggressive defense, but it may not matter in the end.

The "X" Factor

This will be the most interesting part of the equation this week. Is it possible for Notre Dame to beat USC? Probably, but it's very unlikely to happen unless the Irish play with the most intensity, consistency and execution they have all season on Saturday. Essentially, the Irish have to have some fun out there—something that we haven't seen from this group in awhile.

Last week Greg Robinson's Syracuse team came in with a loose "nothing to lose" attitude and won. They played with all those things mentioned above……intensity, consistency, execution. They showed up for their coach last weekend. Will the Irish show up for Weis and his staff on Saturday? They have zero chance of winning if they don't.

Mike Frank Prediction:

I just don't see Notre Dame having a chance in this game. They may show up and play for a quarter or two, but I just don't see this team playing well all game. There have been too many distractions this week, and while that can sometimes be a good thing, I just don't see that being a good thing this week for the Irish.

USC: 48 Notre Dame : 10 Top Stories