The Notre Dame Fighting Irish head out to California for a game against the USC Trojans that means everything. No — if the Irish win, they aren’t headed to the college football playoff. A win also doesn’t guarantee them a spot in a New Years Six game. This is THE rivalry for Notre Dame, and a win means the Irish ruin Southern Cal’s bid for the playoff.
While that sweet pettiness can certainly be enough, a win also means that the Irish finished the regular season with 6 straight wins after a 3-3 start, and they have a chance to finish near the top five.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Notre Dame is a 5.5 point underdog to USC with an OVER/UNDER of 64.5.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Now it’s time for the OFD Staff to unleash their own picks. More still may roll in throughout the day. Here are a few thoughts from The Emperor’s Elite Pick-Em Force:
I have a solid amount of confidence entering this game (never a good sign) as I think the Notre Dame running game should be able to have a very strong day against this USC defense, hopefully limiting the number of chances the Trojans have to intercept Drew Pyne passes and limiting the number of possessions Caleb Williams gets to score oodles of points.
Unfortunately, I also think Caleb Williams and USC’s DEEP receiver group will be too much for the Irish to handle, especially with Cam Hart either out or at the very least not 100%. And I’m not sure this Notre Dame offense is built to run with Lincoln Riley’s offense. I’ll say USC 40, ND 31 and I dearly, dearly hope the Irish make me look foolish and ruin those chumps’ playoff dreams.
USC is No. 1 nationally in turnover margin at +21. Let that insane number sink in for a minute. As much as I would like to believe that the pendulum will swing back big time in their final regular season game, that gaudy number makes you wonder if this is just a really opportunistic Trojans defense with a Heisman caliber quarterback.
This game feels like it will play out like Notre Dame’s season opener against Ohio State, where a transcendent quarterback on the other team made a couple of plays to lift his team over the Irish. I foresee a Pyne turnover (or two) and Caleb Williams picking on Irish defensive backs not named Benjamin Morrison and TaRiq Bracy. FINAL SCORE: USC 34, Notre Dame 31
This one is gonna be fun. I had a difficult time settling on how I think this game is going to unfold. On one hand I think Notre Dame’s defense is going to be able to do their job against this USC offense. The question is if our offense can keep up. I think USC’s game last week against UCLA answered that question for me. I think Notre Dame will take care of the ball better and their defense is more talented. I think the Irish dash the Trojan’s playoff hopes 34-28.
The Irish have shown up in big games and in games on the road, too. This game is both of those, and the Irish/Freeman are looking to make an ending statement. This series historically has been about playing the spoiler, and that is what is going to happen. The Irish go into the Coliseum and get a win to crush Southern Cal’s playoff hopes. Run the damn ball and limit SC’s possessions. Irish win this one 38-34 for the Jeweled Shillelagh.
I’m nervous about USC’s ability to rack up points and I think this one will definitely come down to the wire. But the Irish defense is better than any the Trojans have had to face and should keep them from scoring at will. If the Irish can avoid turnovers and run the ball well enough to control the clock and limit USC’s possessions, I think they pull this one out. Irish win 34-31.
Other games besides Notre Dame vs USC that I asked the staff to pick are:
Cincinnati Bearcats VS Tulane Green Wave
Florida Gators VS Florida State Seminoles
Central Michigan Chippewas VS Eastern Michigan Eagles
Michigan Wolverines VS Ohio State Buckeyes
South Carolina Gamecocks VS Clemson Tigers
Oregon Ducks VS Oregon State Beavers
Michigan State Spartans VS Penn State Nittany Lions
LSU Tigers VS Texas A&M Aggies
Washington Huskies VS Washington State Cougars
Kansas Jayhawks VS Kansas State Wildcats