Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

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

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Page 38 of 55 OCT. 12, 2019 39 Carol Folt from North Carolina this year and now working toward find- ing a new athletics director. Whether the cleaning will continue over into the football office later this year is still to be determined. "This is a mentally tough bunch," Helton said after the win versus Utah. "And I know some folks have made fun of me for, 'So what, now what?' But that's our motto. "Stuff is bad sometimes but it is, 'What are you going to do? Are you going to make an excuse, or are you going to find a way to get the job done?'" TALE OF THE TURNOVER USC's ability to have talent over- come mistakes was especially evi- dent in its win over then-No. 10 Utah. The Trojans committed 117 yards in penalties, rushed for only 13 yards, played its No. 3 quarterback and missed 20 tackles, per Pro Foot- ball Focus — yet won 30-23. However, there is no statistic that is more conspicuous in its matchup with Notre Dame than turnover margin. Entering last weekend's game versus Bowling Green, the Fighting Irish were No. 1 nationally among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin with a plus-2.25 ratio (13 generated and only four lost). No other team was higher than plus-1.75. Meanwhile, 3-2 USC entered its bye week Oct. 5 tied for 121st in the country in turnover margin at mi- nus-1.40 (13 lost and only six gained). If the Trojans can win the turnover battle at Notre Dame, or possibly even break even, their chances of vic- tory will rise significantly. BALANCING ACT After a season-ending injury in the opener to starting quarterback JT Daniels, USC still enjoyed relative success on offense with Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink, although the fresh- man Slovis (who enrolled in January) is the preferred route. A main reason is that there might not be a more explosive trio of receiv- ers on any college roster than Mi- chael Pittman, Taylor Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown for USC's "Air Raid" assault orchestrated by new coordinator Graham Harrell. However, defeating a defense co- ordinated by Clark Lea likely will require two dimensions, not just the run or pass. The Trojans will enter the game averaging 292.2 yards passing and 137.2 rushing despite a quality trio of backs in leading rusher Vavae Malepai, Stephen Carr (whose seven carries at Washington Sept. 28 totaled 94 yards) and Markese Stepp, a for- mer verbal pledge to Notre Dame. The Irish trail only Washington — a 28-14 winner over USC — in most consecutive games allowing 30 or fewer points in a game, with a cur- rent streak of 19. USC did rush for 212 yards versus the Huskies, but lost the turnover bat- tle 3-1. A similar ground game output versus Notre Dame, minus the turn- overs, could result in the upset. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: USC Sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, whose oldest brother Equanimeous played at Notre Dame (2015-17), notched 24 catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns during USC's 3-2 start this season. PHOTO BY JOHN MCGILLEN/COURTESY USC Predictions Todd Burlage: Notre Dame 31, USC 20 Notre Dame enters this game winners of 14 straight at home, while USC has lost nine of its last 17 games. These two programs have been heading in very different directions since the 49-14 Irish win at home in 2017. Vince DeDario: Notre Dame 31, USC 21 Notre Dame's defense is playing at a very high level, but USC brings a passing game that the Fighting Irish haven't seen yet. The Trojans will score some points regardless of who the QB is. Still, the Irish offense continues to get better and will score enough to win this game. Andrew Mentock: Notre Dame 36, USC 27 There is still some uncertainty at quarterback for USC, but it's likely that freshman Kedon Slovis will return after suffering a concussion. This will allow USC to get the ball out quickly and efficiently to its extremely talented group of receivers. It comes down to the Irish defense and its ability to create havoc. Mike Singer: Notre Dame 31, USC 24 Both of USC's losses have come on the road this season (BYU and Washington), and I don't expect them to play well in a wild environment at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be close, but the Irish will come out on top. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 27, USC 24 Highly tempted to take the Trojans to end the winning streak at home because of history, their ability to move the football, coming off a bye — and I am always leery of a beleaguered head coach pulling one out when most needed. This program always has a haunting specter.

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