Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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34 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED opponent's backfield," Young said of the defensive line. "[Redshirt fresh- man] Jay Tufele, meanwhile, has been a breakout performer in the middle of the line." For the fourth straight year, fifth- year senior linebacker Cameron Smith is one of the top tacklers on the Trojans. He made 59 total stops (44 solo) in the seven games he played in through the first 10 contests. Redshirt junior linebacker John Houston led the team with 63 stops. "Cam Smith is steady and elevates the defense when he's out there," Young noted. "In the three games he missed, USC's tackling woes were far more apparent. "Linebacker is not a game-chang- ing unit for USC, but the defense does depend on Smith's stability in the middle." Senior cornerback Iman Marshall has been one of the bright spots for the Trojans' secondary, while the safety group was decimated just a couple weeks into the new campaign. "Marshall has been tremendous, despite an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost USC a chance to rally late against Cal," Young said. "The other starting corner Isaiah Langley, however, has struggled mightily. Opponents have been wise to stay away from Marshall and go after Langley whenever possible. "The safety position has endured unimaginable setbacks, losing four key players for various reasons. Pro- jected starter Bubba Bolden was sus- pended and transferred, key backup Ykili Ross transferred, opening-day starter Isaiah Pola-Mao was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury in week two and freshman replacement Talanoa Hufanga eventually broke his collarbone. "Nickel Ajene Harris is now play- ing out of position there. But senior Marvell Tell has been pretty steady at the other safety spot." USC's inconsistencies on both sides of the ball don't leave many on the outside believing the Trojans have the horses to pull off what would be a big upset in the rivalry. "I don't have immense confi- dence in USC taking advantage of any matchups against Notre Dame," Young said. "They'll need Michael Pittman to play big. Whenever the running game stalls, as it often does, USC becomes one-dimensional and depends on its downfield passing at- tack. Pittman has bailed the Trojans out before and will need to be key. "This USC team got off to a 5-5 start for a reason. Nothing has been consistent or dependable this fall. That said, I'd be most concerned about the offensive line struggling, which stalls the entire offense, and the defense's tackling and left cor- nerback issues proving too much to overcome. "I'll pick Notre Dame 31-17. This has been a lost season for USC, and I expect this game to proceed as expected." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: USC Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Cameron Smith — who is a four-year starter — compiled 59 tackles, five stops behind the line of scrimmage and one sack during the Trojans' 5-5 start. PHOTO COURTESY USC 2018 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 1 Michigan W, 24-17 Sept. 8 Ball State W, 24-16 Sept. 15 Vanderbilt W, 22-17 Sept. 22 at Wake Forest W, 56-27 Sept. 29 Stanford W, 38-17 Oct. 6 at Virginia Tech W, 45-23 Oct. 13 Pittsburgh W, 19-14 Oct. 27 vs. Navy* W, 44-22 Nov. 3 at Northwestern W, 31-21 Nov. 10 Florida State W, 42-13 Nov. 17 vs. Syracuse^ W, 36-3 Nov. 24 at USC (ABC) 8 p.m. * at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego; ^ at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y. 2018 USC SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 1 UNLV W, 43-21 Sept. 8 at Stanford L, 17-3 Sept. 15 at Texas L, 37-14 Sept. 21 Washington State W, 39-36 Sept. 29 at Arizona W, 24-20 Oct. 13 Colorado W, 31-20 Oct. 20 at Utah L, 41-28 Oct. 27 Arizona State L, 38-35 Nov. 3 at Oregon State W, 38-21 Nov. 10 California L, 15-14 Nov. 17 at UCLA L, 34-27 Nov. 24 Notre Dame (ABC) 8 p.m.

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