Hello friends!!! How’s everyone doing on this fine Thursday morning as we mentally prepare for yet another primetime Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game against a ranked opponent???
Well tough shit y’all, because you better get some pep in your step and a fire in your belly — we’re just 2 days away from the culmination of BEAT SC week, when our hapless Irish offense and spent defense attempt to take down the #10 USC Trojans, who simultaneously travel to South Bend toting the best offense in the nation and also an absolutely porous defense.
Lincoln Riley’s squad hasn’t had to face too many tough opponents yet, and they’ve struggled even against the mediocre/bad ones to an extent, but even so, they’re still a dangerous team with lots of firepower, tons of individual talent, and something to prove as their other top conference brethren are squaring off in the game of the day.
So, to ensure we know as much as we need to know about this weird, unbalanced foe, I’ve once again reached out to recurring OFD Q&A interviewee Michael Muto of “Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast,” a podcast he does with our good friend Greg Flammang each week, talking about both ND and USC football’s latest games and their upcoming opponents.
Along with the crowdsourced efforts of you loyal OFD Twitter followers, we’ve assembled quite the list of questions for Michael and his Trojan expertise, asking about this 2023 team’s ultimate destination, Lincoln Riley and his failure to build real defenses, some guy named Caleb Williams and all the skill talent at his disposal, the wildly questionable Trojans defense, lots of sad topics related to ND fans’ depression and lack of faith in the coaching staff, Pete Carroll being a baby-eater, and more!
No sense in talking about this any further, especially considering we should probably change the subject as Irish fans get more and more existential — let’s dive into Michael’s responses and get to know our arch-nemeses just a bit better!
1. USC is 6-0 and obviously has a ridiculous offense, but they’ve now struggled to easily put away Arizona State, Colorado, and Arizona in three consecutive games thanks to some questionable defense. What do you think the ceiling is for this particular USC team as the rest of the season plays out, and do Trojans fans believe Riley will eventually be able to field a strong enough defense to pair with his offense to compete for a title?
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): Before we really get into things, some pleasantries. Thank you for having me back. It’s an honor. I really enjoy everyone at One Foot Down; it’s too bad you all root for my bitter rival. This is now the third time you’ve had me back, and the Irish and Trojans have split the previous two engagements, so really — this is the most important game in USC history.
Ok back to the question: ceiling, you’re asking about ceiling. There is no ceiling for this particular USC team. This team is a rocket heading for outer space. The literal sky is the limit for these Trojans. They have the ability to beat anyone! The second part of the question had something to do with defense, but that’s not important. The Trojan offense has the ability to outscore anyone, and the last time I checked, the team with the most points wins. If defense was so important I’m sure there would be some age old adage about it winning championships, but nothing comes to my mind.
2. Talk to me about this Caleb Williams guy — I haven’t heard much about him. What does he do best, and is there any way you suggest Notre Dame should approach trying to prevent him from having another dozen Heisman moments against them?
Also, do you think he’s seriously considering staying another year in college if he doesn’t like the team with the top pick?
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): I’m going to be honest with you here, having the best player in college football at the most important position is objectively pretty awesome. The guy makes every throw, and not only can he make them, but he also makes them look easy.
Rooting interests aside, there really isn’t anything more impressive than watching Caleb Williams scramble right and throw an absolute pin point bullet to his left. It’s amazing and I’m glad he plays for my team. Good luck trying to rein him in. Williams has the ability to make a Heisman moment on every single play.
Now, about this coming back to school thing. I appreciate all the hard work the Football Writers of America are putting into this story, but there isn’t a chance Caleb Williams is playing football at USC next year.
3. USC’s offense is littered with great skill talent — talk us through the names to know at receiver and running back on this squad, and who you think will cause the most issues for a good-but-exhausted Irish defense.
Additionally, how good is the Trojans offensive line this year, and how do you expect them to hold up against the best defensive front they’ve faced so far this season?
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): There is nothing Notre Dame fans love more than offensive line talk, and I get it — I have to watch your receivers every week, too. That was a cheap shot, and I’m sorry. I’m truly very happy for the lacrosse kid. The Trojans offensive line is fine. They added a few mercenaries — I mean transfers — in the offseason who really contribute. Depth might be a problem, especially going up against the Irish though.
Now to the fun stuff. You never know who the hot receiver will be for the Trojans. It’s generally Brendan Rice or Tahj Washinton, but Mario Williams and Dorian Singer are always lurking around. It looks like exciting true freshman Zachariah Branch will be back for this game. He is fast and can score touchdowns from anywhere and in many different ways. The Trojans do have a tight end and his name is Lake McRee, sometimes he even gets to catch the ball.
Another mercen….ahh transfer (caught myself) who is a big contributor is RB MarShawn Lloyd. The guy averages seven yards per carry, and if you ask most USC fans he doesn’t get the ball enough. He is also good for one fun highlight a week and they range from wild touchdown runs to awesome pancake blocks, all good stuff.
To rectify the lack of touches for Lloyd I’ve been kicking around a Lincoln Riley Bud Kilmer theory when it comes to QB stats vs RB stats, and just to be clear — this theory pertains only to QB stats, not any other reason why Bud Kilmer wouldn’t give someone the ball. Fuck Kilmer!
4. What has/have been the major issue(s) with Alex Grinch’s defense so far, and is there anything you think they do well that will allow them to find success against an ND offense that’s looked completely lost the last three weeks? Or do you think the Irish offense will have a slump-buster game against the Trojans?
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): I assume everyone listens to my podcast so I’m sorry to repeat myself, but the main problem with Alex Grinch’s defense is the offense doesn’t score enough points. If the offense scores more points these games wouldn’t even be close. Is perfect offensive execution too much to ask for?
Some other notes on the Trojan defense. According to my podcast partner, Notre Dame expert Greg Flammang, USC loves to send pressure and Irish QB Sam Hartman does not perform well when pressured. Something to look for. Also the much maligned USC defense does have a knack for generally making plays when it matters. All bets are off for the defensive plays before it matters, but whatever, right?
5. FAN QUESTION:
Bruh what is even the point— Justin Tournoux (@EarthToJustin2) October 8, 2023
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): How dare you sir. This is the greatest intersectional rivalry in all of college football. This is what the sport was founded on.
A coastal, sun-kissed school, blessed with modern offensive concepts and a devil may care attitude vs a midwest stalwart who has yet to embrace the vertical passing game and has to shovel snow while wearing thick jackets. That’s the point.
The two schools with the most Heisman Trophies meeting up in a year where another statue is about to be added to the collection. That’s the point.
The current best player in college football playing in its cultural mecca. That’s the point.
I promise this will be a fun one for all parties involved.
6. FAN QUESTION:
Should 13 be enough to win this week? Fingers crossed!— ATX_Rich (@Rich_In_ATX) October 8, 2023
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): At first glance I assumed this question meant USC all world quarterback #13 Caleb Williams, and yes my friend. No need to cross those fingers, #13 will be more than enough.
After taking off my cardinal and gold colored glasses, I realized you meant would 13 points be enough for the Notre Dame offense to claim victory over the Trojans. Friend I’m sorry to say, no you will need to score more than just 13 points to beat the Trojans, but fear not, there is no need to cross those fingers. I have information that will brighten your cold,
Fighting Irish heart: there is no way that this USC defense gives up only 13 points. Just by having 11 starters on the field (I know that’s hard for Notre Dame), the Irish are locked into at least 24 points.
7. FAN QUESTIONS related to ND’s Poor Coaching!!!
Ask him what is worse: SCs defence or NDs coaches?— MPower (@mpower514) October 8, 2023
What it’s like to have a competent offensive staff/play caller— Bradley Ray (@bradleyray423) October 8, 2023
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): This truly is the movable object versus the stoppable force. The Notre Dame offense may be stagnant and hard to watch, but if there is one thing that can cure whatever ails a college football offense, it’s the USC defense. Gerad Parker is going to look like a genius out there. Sam Hartman will look like the Sam Hartman who beat up on an FCS school, not the guy who loves to turn the ball over to Louisville. The Trojans are here to help you rack up the yards and points.
Now when it comes to Lincoln Riley and the Trojan offense — things are pretty great, minus the Bud Kilmer stuff from above. The Trojans know how to get athletes in space, even if they have to use the swinging gate sometimes.
This next part though you may not believe. There are people in Trojanland unhappy with Lincoln Riley, and it has nothing to do with his brisket. I’m sure when he is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys next year, the Trojan faithful will all miss him dearly.
8. FAN QUESTIONS about Caleb Williams getting a lot of rest this weekend!!!
Does Williams play more than a quarter and a half with a 45 point lead?— This Is My Coping Mechanism (@D_Rak_75) October 8, 2023
Who’s Caleb’s backup? He’s probably gonna see some quality time since offense doesn’t look like it move against Vandy this year— goldendomer (@Goldendomer316) October 8, 2023
*Editor’s note: I’m not entirely sure how Vandy got pulled into this but I’m gonna make you answer this anyway
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): Who is Caleb Williams’ backup is the best question anyone could have possibly asked me. The man in question is none other than #7 Miller Moss, and my favorite Trojan.
Growing up in Southern California, Miller Moss always wanted to play quarterback for the Trojans. He was the 112th ranked player in his class. A class that included Alabama quarterback Tyler Buchner, Ohio State’s Kyle McCord, J.J. McCarthy of the hated Michigan Wolverines, UNC’s Drake Maye, number one prospect Quinn Ewers, former Trojan and current Ole Miss Rebel Jaxson Dart, and most importantly Caleb Williams.
Now the old Trojan coaching staff and USC fan base fell in love with Jaxson Dart, but that did not deter Moss. He stuck around and did not transfer. When current coach Lincoln Riley moved to Los Angeles and brought with him Caleb Williams, Jaxson Dart may have transferred, but not Miller Moss. Moss has stood by the Trojans through thick and thin and nothing has ever made him waver about his decision to be a Trojan. How could you not love that?
Now that he has his degree from USC, it’s going to be really cool when he transfers to Notre Dame next year.
9. FAN QUESTION:
Why is the horse called Traveler if its only for home games?— Paul Neel (@Domerskee) October 8, 2023
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): The real reason Traveler couldn’t make it to this game is the tunnels at Notre Dame Stadium are too small to fit all of the legacy and history that comes along with the beautiful white horse when he gallops into your city.
A man is nothing if he doesn’t have a code, and I pride myself on being a truth teller, so like my nugget last year about Lincolin Riley’s brisket cooking prowess, I’m here to tell you that the name Traveler might be a little problematic in 2023, but you have to do that research yourself.
10. I heard from a trusted source* that Pete Carroll eats babies. Can you confirm?
*“trusted source” here is a fantastic sign taped to the Notre Dame dining hall door in October 2009...
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): If eating babies gets you the kind of results that the Carroll era Trojans achieved, then that’s a modest proposal I can get behind.
11. Alright let’s get down to it: who wins this game, what’s the final score, and how do you think it happens?
Michael Muto (“Untitled Notre Dame USC Podcast”): In this bizarro world, the Trojans are somehow an underdog. I like it.
I say this game goes just like last year. The Trojans jump out to an early lead, Sam Hartman does his best Drew Pyne impersonation and leads a valiant comeback that ends up falling short. 31-24 Trojans.
The Trojans remain undefeated and head home to face Utah, hopefully minus Thiccboi7.
Okay friends, I want to go ahead and start wrapping this up by tossing a monumental shout-out and thank you to Michael for his time, energy, and talent he so generously donated to answer our list of questions that ranged from standard to depressing to thought-provoking to disturbing. Even though he’s forever doomed his own soul by being a fan of the enemy, we consider him a true friend of the OFD Q&A community and appreciate him greatly despite that fact.
Thus, I recommend you all go check out his and Greg’s podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc., and please also be sure to follow the man on Twitter. He’s an excellent follow on that ever-more-hellish-by-the-day site we all love, and will surely provide some great insight, news, thoughts, feelings, and opinions leading up to the game on Saturday night, as well as during and after.
With that said, it’s time to sign off for the week, y’all. If anyone wants to commiserate about last weekend and drink a Hamm’s/High Life or 10, find me in the tailgate lots or somewhere on campus throughout the day Saturday. For everyone else, I will leave you with the profound words of Rocket Ismail and a simple “GO IRISH, BEAT SC!!!!”