It will be another chapter in one of the best rivalries in college football Saturday night when USC travels to South Bend, Indiana, to take on No. 9Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series 48-37-5 and Brian Kelly has claimed three of the last four against Trojans coach Clay Helton. While USC was off last week to prepare for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are in the midst of a stretch of home games that most recently included a 52-0 rout of Bowling Green.
If either of these teams have hopes of playing in a New Year's bowl game, Saturday's matchup will go a long way in determining that fate. Let's take a closer look at what to expect from both teams as well as make some picks.
Notre Dame:Though the margin for error is small, there is still an opportunity to accomplish everything that the Fighting Irish want to do this season. College Football Playoff contention is still part of Notre Dame's future as long as it continues to win through October and November. What Saturday's game presents is a potential quality win for that playoff profile, especially since the Trojans are getting healthy and could finish the season competing for a conference championship. USC might not be ranked now, but it could be by the end of the season.
After USC remains one massive test where we expect Notre Dame to be challenged: at Michigan in two weeks. Other than that, the Irish have Virginia Tech, Navy and Boston College coming to South Bend and two other road trips, at Duke and Stanford, that are winnable spots for this team. Notre Dame is a little bit banged up and still improving on both sides of the ball, but it's still in the conversation for the College Football Playoff here in mid-October.
USC:Michael Pittman's message of "embrace the suck" -- conveying to younger USC teammates the uncomfortable feeling of playing on a crisp Indiana night in lower temperatures -- also carries over to what the Trojans need to show in this game to inspire confidence in its outlook for the rest of the season. Kedon Slovis' return and the success off the passing game so far have kept the Trojans in contention for a Pac-12 title, but there's a certain toughness that this USC team is going to need in order to run the table in conference play.
Beating Utah earlier this season gave USC a head-to-head advantage against the preseason Pac-12 South favorites, and the fact its lone loss so far came against a cross-division foe (Washington) keeps the chances of winning the division high heading into the final stretch of the season. But taking down teams like Oregon, Arizona State and Cal is going to require a real edge and physicality at the line of scrimmage. Putting that toughness on display on the road at night in South Bend would not only be a great sign for the Trojans moving forward, but it's also the key to having a shot at pulling the upset.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 12 |Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- South Bend, Indiana
TV:NBC |Live stream:fuboTV(Try for free)
I'm with Michael Pittman. I think USC having an extra week to unpack that Washington loss allowed for some recalibration that helps the Trojans keep this a one-score game.Pick: USC (+11.5)
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