You can find my answers to Evan's questions HERE. Without further ado, let's add some cookies to this training table and get right into it:
1. USC has shown some tremendous improvement in the short time since Lane Kiffin's firing. What are your thoughts on Coach O, and where do you see this year's Trojan team ending up? Can Orgeron recover from both the roster limitations and the hole that Kiffin dug?
There has been no greater relief to the players overall perspective on the game of football and the approach to winning the right way than the departure of Lane Kiffin from this program. It seems like such an insignificant point in terms of winning and losing, but the overall attitude on this team has changed and players are being genuine when they say they will run into walls for their coach.
That being said, the schedule figures to get much tougher down the road with Notre Dame, the high-flying Oregon State passing attack, the ground-and-pound Stanford Cardinal along with suddenly stingy UCLA unit coming up this season. If the Trojans want to overcome depth issues at key positions (WR, DL, CB), they will need to play inspired football every week no if, and's or buts about it.
2. Notre Dame has had some trouble defending the pass this season, especially the quick passing game. With the loss of LB Jarrett Grace, it seems this will continue to be an issue for the Irish defense. How do you expect the Trojans to attack the Irish in this game, and what should we be most concerned about defending?
The Trojans will stay true to their formula to success by looking to pound the Notre Dame defense up the middle with a physical rushing attack. Even though leading rusher Tre Madden is questionable for Saturday, senior Silas Redd returns to the backfield providing plenty of bunch to a loaded rushing attack. Since Grace is out for the game, USC will look to utilize the TE-duo Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer in the passing game.
This will allow quarterback Cody Kessler to check the ball down more with confidence, looking to expose some gaping wholes in the middle of the defense. Not only will USC play a heavy dosage of dink and dunk football, I am certain Nelson Agholor and possibly Marqise Lee (if healthy) will go deep numerous times this weekend to test the Notre Dame secondary.
3. Marquise Lee is expected to play in this game (at least by Brian Kelly). We all know how great he truly is, but who is one player on each side of the ball who we may not know as much about that will surprise us with a big performance on Saturday night?
While Marqise Lee gets all the attention on the offensive side of the ball, one player to keep an eye out this week is 17-year-old running back Justin Davis. The true freshman may be nestled behind an array of backs, but has certainly been explosive with the rock when given his chance. Davis exhibits tremendous vision and cut-back ability in the whole which make him an elusive runner.
In terms of the defensive side of the ball, one of the most underrated players has been J.R. Tavai, the speed rusher on the defensive line that accumulated 10 tackles (2.5 TFL) against Arizona last week. Thanks to injuries across the line, Tavai got his best chance to play last week and took full advantage chasing down quarterbacks and even runners out of the backfield. Look for both players to be featured this week as the Trojans promise to rotate more players on the field, after looking rather gassed in the 4th quarter last week.
4. Many at Notre Dame will certainly be having flashbacks to the night game in 2011, especially the 98 yard fumble returned for a touchdown. ND hasn't beaten USC in South Bend since 2001. What is your LEAST favorite memory of a ND-USC game as a Trojan fan, to help us through the tough times?
Take this as you may, since I am only 20 years old and have experience very little ND domination over USC, but watching the Irish stop the Trojans on three successive plays on the goal line was one of the most frustrating moments of football I have ever watched.
The worst game however, was certainly during 2010 when I unloaded my drenched pants in dismay on the way home from the Coliseum watching Tommy Rees, yes we still remember, driving Notre Dame down the field before his defense sealed the deal with a crucial INT of Mitch Mustain. The Irish have rarely ruined my viewing experience but when they do, man do things hit the wall with wacky weather or dramatic story lines.
5. Finally, what is your prediction for this game, and how will we get there? (Bonus points for GIF usage)
Coming off what many could call the Super Bowl of the season against Arizona, this team has faced enough turmoil inside the locker room to not be distracted much longer by adverse circumstances. Both teams will come out motivated from the start quickly transforming this tilt into a barn-burning affair, ultimately favoring the Irish 31-27 as the Trojans will be unable to score late in the fourth quarter. I am giving the Irish the edge because of Tommy Rees, a player I would have only imagined helping USC' chances earlier in the season but he continues to show just enough that he could actually out duel Cody Kessler. For my GIF, I am featuring the Trojans former head coach to surmise the entire programs feelings after letting one slip through its grasp.
Thanks again to Evan for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope that he and any other Trojans coming to the game on Saturday don't lose their seat on the bus when they get back to LAX.