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Q&A with Conquest Chronicles

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We sit down with Julian Lopez from USC SB Nation Blog Conquest Chronicles to discuss the upcoming matchup between the Irish and Trojans.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Obviously a lot of off-the-field issues this week for the Trojans. What is the team leadership like this season? Will they galvanize the other players, or is there a risk for a big deflation?

USC has tons of leadership on their team that has experienced this before. Led by Cody Kessler and Su'a Cravens, these players will and have pulled together and are a family. These players will be fired up on Saturday and I wouldn't be shocked if they had more excitement than the Irish in the early part of the game.

Saturday night will mark the fourth different USC head coach in as many meetings against Notre Dame -- what is the feeling around the program given the tumult it has experienced over the past half-decade?

With the exception of last year, the previous two meetings, despite losses, the Trojans came ready to play and battled in all four quarters. The feeling is that its tough to see Sarkisian go through this but it was the right move and if you watched any of the press conference on Tuesday, Clay Helton will have the team ready to play. Fans want stability at the head coaching position and its time for USC to move on from the Pete Carroll era.

Who is one non-star player that ND fans may not know who is going to have a huge game against the Irish on each side of the ball?

On offense, I am going to say tight end Tyler Petite and wide receiver Isaac Whitney. Steven Mitchell is probably going to miss the game with a sprained ankle and since Notre Dame will be double-teaming JuJu Smith-Schuster, I can see Petite or Whitney having breakout games. Petite is a true freshman from Northern California with only five receptions on the season while Whitney is a JUCO transfer with two touchdowns through five games. On defense, watch out for freshman linebacker Cameron Smith, who leads the team with 42 tackles. He is beast who finds himself in every play.

The advanced statistics have Notre Dame and USC as almost identical teams in overall offensive and defensive rankings. What do you see as the matchup to exploit for USC to have success on Saturday?

Balanced offense. Notre Dame does pretty well on passing defense while struggling on rushing defense. USC needs to balance the ball on offense and do exactly the opposite of what they did against Washington. They were averaging 6.1 yards per carry and gave up on the running game. They cant do that against Notre Dame. On defense, the Trojans need to blitz the first-year starting quarterback Kizer.

Cody Kessler lit up the Irish defense last season. With less Irish players injured heading into this game, do you see Kessler having any struggles, or will he find just as much success?

If Notre Dame watched film of last Thursday's game, they will see that Kessler struggled after being hit early and being blitzed. That's exactly what the Irish need to do or else Kessler will carve the Notre Dame defense which is one of the best in the nation.

What's your prediction for the game this weekend, and how do we get there exactly? (Bonus points for GIF usage)

A back and forth game that goes down to the wire as the Irish squeak a 34-27 victory over USC.