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

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8 OCT. 7, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME The Trojans Have The Firepower To Pull An Upset By Lou Somogyi Nine out of 10 times, the simple answer for me would be the road game. Plus, the Fighting Irish have put together the third-longest winning streak inside Notre Dame Stadium since it opened in 1930, while it is 1-7 in its last eight trips to Michi- gan Stadium, with a four-game losing streak. But this is my one in 10. USC started 3-1 against a difficult slate while winning with three different starting quarterbacks, highlighted by a conquest of No. 10 Utah that makes them the front-runner of the Pac-12 South. This will be a battle-tested crew — and one with a bye the week before play- ing Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish will have a bye the week prior (Oct. 19) to facing Michigan — while the Wolverines will be playing at Penn State, where they were crushed 42-13 in 2017. With its Air Raid attack and a host of NFL pass catchers/playmakers, ma- ligned head coach Clay Helton's troops are the lone opponent capable of reaching 30 points against the Irish. Talent is seldom an issue for the Trojans. One other factor that leaves me unsettled is that time of year often is preparation for mid-term exams. That's part of why Pitt was my "upset spe- cial" last year at Notre Dame, although the Irish did rally in the fourth quarter to eke out a 19-14 win. The talent level at USC is significantly better than Pitt's. If the Trojans are recharged and mentally in tune after their bye, they could avoid having the first three-game losing streak to Notre Dame since 1999-2001. The Wolverines Are Still A Tough Out At Home By Todd D. Burlage Look no further than recent history to realize that winning at Michigan will be tougher than claiming a home game against USC, a Trojans program that had won only seven of its last 16 games heading into its matchup at No. 17 Washington Sept. 28. Neither Michigan nor USC has been playing up to their past standards of excellence during this decade. That said, the Wolverines still control their home turf with a 27-4 record at Michigan Stadium under head coach Jim Harbaugh. They also have defeated Notre Dame at The Big House four straight times and seven of the last eight, dating back to 1997. Meanwhile, under head coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has defeated USC in five of the last seven tries, and three straight at home. Michigan has not lived up to its top-10 preseason ranking, most notably the 35-14 loss to Wisconsin. But this is still a quality opponent that has been defeated at home only by its two rivals — Michigan State (twice) and Ohio State (twice) — since Harbaugh took over in 2015. Expect the Irish to be a hefty favorite at home against USC, but around a pick 'em at Michigan, more evidence into which is the tougher game. Program momentum suggests Notre Dame can beat both USC and Michigan in matchups versus two foes with coaches firmly melted to their hot seats. Yet, suggesting that winning a home game against a USC program that hasn't won half its games since late 2017 is a tougher test than winning at The Big House, well, that's a big stretch. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHICH WILL BE THE TOUGHER OCTOBER GAME, USC AT HOME OR MICHIGAN ON THE ROAD? CLAY HELTON JIM HARBAUGH Growing up in Abbotsford, British Columbia — about two hours north of Seattle — Irish senior wide receiver Chase Claypool faced some unique challenges through high school while trying to catch some recruiting attention for college. When football fans think of recruiting hot- beds, the talent-rich states of Florida, Texas or California typically come up, not Canada. But with the help of his trainer and the far-reaching power of social media, Claypool eventually was discovered, and now he has become the best wide receiver on the Notre Dame roster and a potential high-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. BGI: How were you introduced to football? Claypool: "I was about 6 years old and my first sport was baseball, and I didn't really have a passion for that. I was playing football during recess and I was getting into that so I asked my mom if I could go out for football — I was 8 years old — and I've been playing ever since. "So it was just playing with my friends at school, that's what got me into football." BGI: What was the level of high school competi- tion like in Canada? Claypool: "There were some good players and some good teams. Compared to the states, the talent level was a little bit lower but there are still plenty of good players. "Teams made up for the lack of talented corner- backs by always playing double coverage on me so I still faced my fair share of challenges." BGI: When did it dawn on you there might be a football future for you in college? Claypool: "It was my junior year of high school when I started getting looks. Before that, I wasn't even thinking about going to the next level because I didn't think it was a possibility. "Once somebody told me that I was good enough to do it, that's when I started thinking about the next level." BGI: Coming from Canada, was it difficult to get word out and have coaches find you? Claypool: "I had a guy I knew send my film around, who ended up being my trainer. And then I just posted my highlights on Twitter and Facebook, places like that, so I guess that's how people saw it. "But my trainer helped me get it to some coaches. Once I got my first offer, I was kind of on the radar." BGI: Do you feel any sort of special pride representing Canada? Claypool: "Definitely, anything I can do here might help the kids from Canada that are try- ing to make it. I think that is just kind of auto- matic when you're coming from somewhere that doesn't get a lot of opportunities. "I think there are a lot of players that could've went Division I and didn't get the recognition." — Todd D. Burlage Five Questions With … SENIOR WIDE RECEIVER CHASE CLAYPOOL Claypool may not hail from a recruiting hotbed, but the wide receiver from British Columbia will play on Sundays in the future. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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