Are No. 3 Irish A Trojan Horse In Prime-Time Clash At USC?

usc notre dame

Rainman M.

Monday, November 19, 2018 12:41 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 12:41 PM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on USC vs Notre Dame. The game from Los Angeles is on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Bet confident with SBRpicks.com.

Rainman Season ND Record: 5-5 ATS

No. 3 Notre Dame (11-0 SU, 6-4-1 ATS) at USC (5-6 SU, 3-8 ATS)Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)Free NCAAF Pick: USC ATSBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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At a prestigious program, no single team wants to be the team remembered for missing a bowl game. Last year, the Seminoles became transformed with six losses and they won and covered their last three games. This year, they won and covered last week to avoid getting their seventh loss. In USC’s case, the Trojans haven’t missed a bowl that it was eligible for (they were barred by sanctions from a couple bowls) since 2000. With six losses, 2018 USC could be that team. Because everyone is dismissing USC, it is a tremendous value play with bonus points being added to the spread. Notre Dame opened at -8 and Irish bettors already have pounded it up to -10.5.

USC’s biggest change will happen defensively. Last week, the Trojans allowed UCLA to be more aggressive in its run-blocking. If anybody reached UCLA’s backfield, it tended to be USC’s secondary. A more concentrated effort from USC’s front seven will ensure results that reflect their ability. On the season, both USC’s front seven and secondary rank in the top 50 in havoc rate, a stat that measures the rate of tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and defended passes. The Trojans' run defense has mostly been solid even after senior linebacker Porter Gustin’s injury in mid-October because USC already grew used to playing without Gustin while he was injured for most of 2017. The Trojans held three of their next five opponents to at least .6 yards per carry below its season average. The one exception came against Arizona State, where linebacker and leading tackler Cameron Smith was likewise injured, and last week against the more aggressive Bruins. The Bruins’ offensive line is also exceptionally good because of its ability to execute pulls and engage defenders in open space. UCLA’s o-line ranks 13th in opportunity rate, a stat which measures how frequently an o-line does its job. 53% of UCLA carries accrues at least four yards.

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Notre Dame’s offensive line is missing two first-rounders, a position coach, and injured guard Alex Bars. Its o-line ranks 98 spots lower than UCLA's in opportunity rate, 111th. Its running backs get stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage at a higher rate than 111 other teams. USC’s run defense ranks 20th in opposing yards per carry against ranked opponents, which it has faced three of. Stopping the run is important against Notre Dame, which runs the ball with the 42nd-highest frequency.

Notre Dame’s pass attack also has enjoyed a renaissance under quarterback Ian Book. USC’s secondary matches up well with Irish receivers thanks to its physicality. Notre Dame’s best pass-catcher, Miles Boykin, won’t have as easy a time as he did against Syracuse, whose starting cornerbacks are three inches shorter and not as strong as USC cornerback Iman Marshall. Third-year starting safety Marvin Tell also is a staple in the secondary with his range, tackling ability, and physicality. He ranks second on the team in both tackles and passes defensed.

USC’s offense is likewise loaded with talent. Aca’Cedric Ware averages 6.8 YPC and Vavae Malepeai averages 5.4. The Hawaiian led the backfield with six YPC against Washington State’s top-30 run defense and is always apt to break a big play. USC’s receiving corps is laden with big playmakers. Michael Pittman, with his speed and highlight-reel ability to extend for catches, averages nearly 20 yards per reception. Amon-Ra St. Brown was a five-star recruit known for his route-running ability. He and returning starter Tyler Vaughns have more than 45 receptions. Freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels has developed throughout the year. He’s better at locating open receivers by being quicker with his decision-making and doing small things like looking off opposing defensive backs. He’s one of the nation’s leaders in 40+-yard completions and can complete some against a Notre Dame secondary that has largely been untested by the quality and big-play potential of opposing pass attacks.

Notre Dame is 0-3 ATS in its last three games on the West Coast. USC will be motivated and will showcase its talent for a winning NCAAF Pick.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 20

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