Posted by Tom Fornelli
NOTRE DAME WILL WIN IF: See if you notice a trend here. In Notre Dame's two losses to start the season, it turned the ball over 10 times. In the four victories since, the Irish have turned the ball over 5 times, including none in the last two games. You think it's a coincidence that the Irish have won those games? I don't. In USC, the Irish will be facing a defense that has forced 10 turnovers on the season and is giving up 23.5 points per game, but gave up 43 points to Arizona State and 41 to Arizona. The Irish offense may be stronger than both of those teams, and as long as Tommy Rees can continue to take care of the football, the Irish should find plenty of success on offense and knock off their hated rivals.
USC WILL WIN IF: The Trojans offense has not been fantastic this season and it's facing a Notre Dame defense that, aside from a couple meaningless fourth quarter touchdowns by Air Force last week, has been very strong over the last month. Much like Notre Dame needs to do, Matt Barkley and the USC offense will have to take care of the ball and use a balanced attack to move the ball down the field and keep Notre Dame's offense off the field. Opposing quarterbacks have completed less than 60% of the passes against the Notre Dame defense, but that unit has also allowed 10 touchdowns through the air and 225 yards per game. So the opportunities will be there for Barkley and Robert Woods, they just need to take advantage of them.
X-FACTOR: Curtis McNeal. While nothing is official yet, after suffering a shoulder injury last weekend, USC's leading rusher Marc Tyler isn't expected to play in this game. Which means McNeal will take over the starting role. He's not as big as Tyler, and while Notre Dame's run defense has been very tough this season, it did give up over 6 yards per carry against Air Force last week. If McNeal can find that kind of room this week and give USC more balance on offense, then the Trojans just might leave South Bend with a victory.