If the Irish can’t win the CFP, they better make sure USC can’t either. (Notre Dame – USC pregame short thoughts)

This Saturday Notre Dame looks to finish the side strong and USC will be hoping to further their campaign towards a CFP birth. As both teams take the field for one of the greatest rivalries in college football.

The University of Southern California will be hosting the Fighting Irish as the highest ranked 1 loss team in the nation. If they can beat the Irish and win the PAC 12 championship, one would have to believe that they will be allowed into the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame has a very interesting opportunity to play season ruiner to the Southern California Trojans. An opportunity to get some long overdue, national title-dream-killing revenge for the Bush Push.

USC is bringing tons of talent to the field on Saturday night, least of which is skyrocketing Heisman candidate, Caleb Williams. His performance at UCLA was pretty extraordinary. Tallying 2 Touchdowns on 470 yards through the air. This was done on 32 of 43 completions made. As the Trojans got the win over UCLA Caleb Williams looked incredible. His game in tandem with running back Austin Jones has Lincoln Riley and the Trojans on the cusp of a truly great season. Austin Jones was able to get 120 yards on the ground on 21 carries in their shootout with the Bruins.

I fully expect the Notre Dame defensive unit to present the Trojans with a level of talent and commitment (pac-12 never really defensively focused) that they have yet to face this season. The Notre Dame defensive side is coming off their best performance of the year. Yes it was against the lesser talented Boston College, but nonetheless it was absolutely dominant. If the Trojans think this will be the same type of game as last week, they are wrong. Because while we know the Notre Dame offense may not be able to win a shootout, we know the Irish defense won’t let it get to becoming a shootout in the first place.

Isaiah Foskey and the Notre Dame defensive front are going to be the most talented side the USC offensive line has come across. The dawgs on our defensive line aren’t the same type of players that Colorado is bringing in. We are going to present them with more pressure from our defensive line than the Trojans have seen all year. If able to get enough pressure from the defensive line, Caleb Williams will be facing off against his most blanketing defense to date. It will be on the Notre Dame Irish to make the final play in this one, as the defense will absolutely keep the Fighting Irish in this game.

Benjamin Morrison is playing at a truly elite level. After Navy ran and ran and ran the ball. Benjamin Morrison followed that up with 3 interceptions taken from the Boston College Eagles. The kid was incredible in this one and incredible against Clemson. If he’s dialed in, I fully expect him to present a unique challenge and be a type of playmaker Caleb Williams has yet to come across in an opposing defense.

The Notre Dame offense doesn’t need to rewrite the script here. Run all day. Notre Dame’s offensive line should be the most gargantuan that the Trojans have come across. In this highly touted rivalry game, I don’t expect the big uglies to need much of a reason to bring an edge into LA. Let’s hand it to Audric and let him bumble and stumble forward 7 yards at a time. Those are the type of plays that killed Clemson, the drives consisting of 5 yard runs after 5 yard runs have a drastic way of deflating any defense. Run the ball, make USC commit to stopping it, then find the All-Time talent Michael Mayer. It almost seems too easy in my delusionally optimistic and biased mind. Here’s hoping the Tommy Rees has this offense ready to execute. This game will be won in the details.

Whether it is Audric Estime plowing forward, committing to the north-south run game, or Logan Diggs large play potential. No shocking news here, our day hinges on the shoulders of the offensive line and our ball carriers.

Marcus Freeman finds himself with his head above water. Finding his way in South Bend, this is his greatest test to date. It’s Notre Dame vs. USC. Right up there with the greatest rivalries in sports. Come Saturday night, I want to see Freeman locked in himself. The crowd in Los Angeles is going to be ludicrous. With their entire National Title hopes binging on this game, it’s Marcus Freeman’s opportunity to earn a lot of good faith with the Irish Faithful. Upsetting Trojan fans always has a way of cheering up the Irish.

If you had told me following the Marshall game that this same Notre Dame team would be 8-3 heading into the USC game, I’da told you no way. No way Drew Pyne can provide the arm necessary to get us to that record. Now with 1 regular season game left to play, even with that deficiency at quarterback, Marcus Freeman has found a way to have this, our final and most meaningful game.

The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh is one of great esteem with the trophy dating back to 1952. With the many decades of drag out battles that these two sides have had, this one does have substantial weight to it. The hopes of USC’s entire fanbase hinge on whether or not the Irish are going to show up and play to the potential of their roster. Because if that is the case, I’m afraid USC’s season may be ending on new years. Let’s go Irish. Beat the Trojans!!!

If this is to be the last game for some of our best players (no one can blame them), I appreciate everything these guys brought to this team. The only regret I have is that there wasn’t a competent enough arm for Michael Mayer to own every major receiving record in college football, because he really should have it.

Play like an absolute champ,

-Big Red

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