• John Skinner

2016 Notre Dame Preview

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

SC dominates UCLA despite Darnold’s worst statistical game of the year: With a passer rating of 138.96 to go with two interceptions, it was statistically Sam Darnold’s worst outing as a starter.  Despite that, we once again saw why he is so special.  The Bruins could not cope with his elusiveness and ability to keep drives alive which eventually lead to SC being able to thoroughly dominate the time of possession and wear down a good Bruin defense.  The domination of the first down total (31 to 10), play-clock (47:13 to 16:13) and SC having almost twice as much total yardage (527 to 266) is an indication the game was not as close as the final score.

SC’s Rivals inability to win close games is hurting SC down the stretch- As we noted last week, UCLA lost four games by seven points or less and two others by less than 10 points.  Notre Dame is in a similar boat with ALL SEVEN LOSSES BY 8 POINTS OR LESS.  If both UCLA and ND won just half of those contests, SC’s strength of schedule in November would be stronger and make SC look even better in the playoff committee’s eyes.

Lynn Swann having a strong impact on mental outlook of SC’s receivers:  Some players have privately commented that Lynn Swann has been a great asset to SC’s receivers in terms of the mental part of playing the game.  The new SC athletic director, who is a NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver, has the players’ attention and respect.  His quick one-on-one conversations with them focus on the importance of identifying the ball early and what true toughness at the position is about.  “They are subtle yet strong suggestions” stated one receiver.  Players are also quickly point out that Swann never steps on the coaches toes and it is more about mentorship…One of the reasons you may have seen Smith-Schuster playing longer than you think he should have against UCLA was to demonstrate what it means to lead by example and play through difficult circumstances, especially in a big rivalry game.

SC still has a good chance at Rose Bowl or New Year’s 6 game even if Colorado wins Saturday: As long as SC takes care of business against Notre Dame, they should have a good chance to play in the Rose Bowl or potentially another New Year’s bowl game even if Colorado beats Utah and SC does not advance to the Pac-12 South championship game.  The winner of a Colorado/Washington match-up, especially Washington, should get into the 4-team national playoff.   The Rose Bowl doesn’t have to pick the loser of the Pac-12 championship game.  They could potentially choose SC and argue that SC beat both Washington and Colorado and is one of the hottest teams in college football. It also helps that SC is a good ratings boost which is why another major bowl who loses a conference affiliation champion to the final four might contemplate taking SC. . .However, for all of this to happen, a Pac-12 team will need to make it in the playoff.  If not, unless SC does win the conference championship, it will be more like the Alamo or Holiday bowl…

De’Quan Hampton finally becoming the scoring weapon coaches hoped for: When De’Quan Hampton signed with SC as a JC transfer before the 2015 season,  the coaches were really excited about the 6’4 receivers rangy athleticism and his ability to be a strong red zone threat.  He has had a disappointing career but has still worked diligently and it paid off with his first two career touchdowns against UCLA.  His 31-yard catch for a TD was a thing of beauty as he caught the ball at its highest point while being well covered.  Look for Hampton’s role to continue to increase in this final phase of the season, especially with Smith-Schuster banged up. He should play a solid role in red zone and 3rd down passing situations and this week, he presents a match-up issue for the majority of Notre Dame’s defensive backs whom stand under six-feet.

Rainy weather might help the Irish slow down the Trojans offense: With the strong potential of rain/thundershowers for the game, the average Irish defense might get some desperately needed help to slow down the SC offense which currently averages 31.8 points per game.

Irish might get off to a fast start but finishing is the problem:  No one doubts that Notre Dame has the talent to give the Trojans a great game on Saturday.  However, the Trojans have a huge advantage in the focus department.  The Irish have given up multiple double-digit leads this year in close losses.   Even if the Irish jump out to an early lead, SC should be able to mount a nice comeback unless the Trojans have a tough time adjusting to the poor weather.

Notre Dame Players to Watch: QB DeShone Kizer- He is ranked national in the top 25 in passing TD’s and total offense. He’s completed 59.3% of his passes for 2,705 yards with 24 TD’s and only 8 interceptions.  He’s also a solid runner averaging 4.3 yards per carry with seven TD’s.  A pro scout told me that Kizer is one of the best QB’s SC has played against this year and is anticipated to leave ND early for the NFL draft.  The issue for Kizer is whether the Notre Dame offensive line can give him enough time to make the plays necessary to compete with SC.  They are a good run blocking group but tend to struggle in passing situations.  WR Equanimous St. Brown- Averages 17.0 yards per catch to go with a team leading 51 receptions. He is the definite big play threat the Trojans will look to contain. RB Justin Adams has recorded at least 100 yards rushing in the last seven games but they have not been against the caliber of defense that SC possesses.

Quick look at the Trojan Game-Plan: Offensively it will be similar to the UCLA gameplan of valuing ball control and wearing down the Notre Dame defense who has a tough time closing out games.  Look for SC to test the young/inexperienced Notre Dame secondary early, especially if the weather is clear.  With success over the top, Notre Dame will have a real tough time stopping the SC ground game. Notre Dame has one of the worst QB sack rates in the country ranking 114th nationally and only 100th in tackles for losses.  Defensively, SC is going to focus on stopping the ND running game and taking away Kizer’s ability to hurt them with his legs.  SC respects Kizer’s ability but he can have major bouts of inconsistency and the Trojans want to force him to throw and beat them with mid-level and deep throws

Special teams could be key if the weather stays ugly: SC kicker Matt Boermeester (14-19 FGs, 42-43 PATs) and Irish kicker Justin Yoon (13-16 FGs, 41-43 PATs) are similar with Yoon probably getting a slight edge since he has played in tougher weather conditions this year.  The Irish also have a slight edge in the punting department but SC’s kick coverage is superior as the Irish rank 121st nationally in that category while SC is in the top 25. Both teams feature great kick returners in Jackson for SC and Sanders for ND.

Fun Fact about Brian Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame compared to SC’s record while on NCAA sanctions: Since Brian Kelly was hired as the Notre Dame coach in 2010, USC has had 4 head coaches, 2 midseason firings, 2 athletic directors, a postseason ban/major scholarship reduction and has had a record of 60-30. Kelly is 59-30, including 4-7 this season…

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bits:

*UMBRELLAS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE COLISEUM!  The weather forecast calls for afternoon showers starting at 1 pm and turning to thunderstorms around 4pm.

*The Trojans opened as 16.5 point favorites and the line has since slightly moved to 17.5 points.

*Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast has deservedly been nominated for the Broyles Assistant Coach of the year award.

*In an effort to help the homeless in Southern California, fans attending the game are encouraged to bring a pair of new sneakers to the game to donate to a sneaker drive.  There will be drop-off bins at various entry points into the Coliseum.

*SC is ninth nationally in sacks allowed and twelfth in tackles-for-loss allowed.