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Notre Dame Football: The USC Hangover

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The 4 Horsemen of the apocalypse rode again, and cut down the Trojans.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have put themselves in a strange position after a huge 49-14 win over the USC Trojans. The Irish have been vastly underrated, and are extremely good.

Brian Kelly 2.0 is in full swing, and I don't think he can be patted on the back enough for what he has done to turn last season's nightmare into this season's dream. Be skeptical all you like, but you can no longer doubt that this year's Notre Dame football team is one of the best in the country.

TE’VON CONEY IS THE EPITOME OF WHAT THE IRISH DEFENSE HAS BECOME

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Te’von Coney has been pretty damn good this season. For a guy that has been part of a rotation at linebacker, he stands alone as the leading tackler on the team. After Saturday night’s performance, it might be hard to take him off the field. He led the team in tackles with 11, had 2 TFL, 1 sack, and an enormous fumble recovery in the first quarter that set the tone for the game.

Beyond the numbers, Coney looked the part of a Jaylon Smith disciple. He may not have all of the talent that Smith has, but his aggressive play and emotional power is certainly worthy of such a distinction, and the defense is starting to follow his lead.

He had a great game, and really has cemented himself into the lore of this rivalry.

NOTRE DAME’S DEFENSE WILL BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF YOU

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long and arduous journey for this unit. The years with Brian VanGorder only served as an amplifier for what the narrative for the entire program has been... SOFT. It was a unit that was blessed with talent, but talent that was forced to read what amounted to be half of a Tolstoy novel before they made a play.

All of that is ancient history with the arrival of Matt Balis and Mike Elko. Against USC, the defense was smothering and had Sam Darnold on the run for most of the night. This defense was supposed to have big questions along the defensive line and lack pass rushers, but the game showed otherwise.

Notre Dame sacked USC 5 times and racked up 7 quarterback hurries. They knocked Darnold around, got an interception, and held the Trojans under 100 yards rushing. Guys like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill, Nyles Morgan, Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, and others are playing with a physicality that Southern Cal couldn’t come close to matching.

ANOTHER PLEA ABOUT THE AWESOMENESS OF JOSH ADAMS

We are witnessing greatness in the form of running back, Josh Adams. It’s a fair statement to say that Adams has been incredible. Against the Trojans, Adams carried the ball 19 times for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Of course, Adams did that in just 3 quarters. He has sat out 7 quarters of play this year and still carried the ball for 967 yards and averaging over 9 yards a carry. If Notre Dame wants to really push Adams for a Heisman, they either need every quarter out of him, or they need to make that “quarter sat” number as important as the other rushing stats he has racked up.

THE OFFENSE WILL PROBABLY GET BETTER FROM HERE ON OUT

That statement sounds a little bold - doesn’t it? Well, it sure is a little spicy for a team that is averaging 41.3 points a game. The celery and bleu cheese in this, is that Notre Dame’s passing game is going to get a lot better.

There was a noticeable difference with Kevin Stepherson on the field Saturday night. Notre Dame had a gameplan for Stepherson, and it worked out really, really well. The sophomore receiver had 3 receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown, as well as 2 rushes for 24 yards. Those aren’t BLOW ME OUT OF THE WATER numbers, but anyone with two eyes could see what he meant to the Irish offense.

The return of Stepherson means that Notre Dame has another homerun threat, and one that is really aggressive in going after the football and catching it with his hands. I can only guess that his role will grow during the backend of the season, and that is good news for Brandon Wimbush, the offense, and the entire team.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports