For the first time since 2009, both Southern California and Notre Dame enter their storied rivalry game as ranked teams. The contest is packed with College Football Playoff implications for both teams and it should make for an incredible atmosphere under the lights in South Bend.
While the No. 13 Irish were off last week, allowing quarterback Brandon Wimbush and others to get healthy, the No. 11 Trojans enter the game hobbled, coming off a close 28-27 win against Utah that came down to a failed two-point conversion last weekend in the Coliseum.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 21 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- Notre Dame, Indiana
TV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free!)
USC: Can the hobbled Trojans pick themselves off the mat and make a playoff run? Starting linebacker Porter Gustin has a broken toe and a torn bicep, starting defensive end Rasheem Green has an ankle injury, starting nose tackle Josh Fatu is in the concussion protocol after a car accident, and backup nose tackle Marlon Tuipulotu is out of the season after back surgery. The defensive front has been decimated by injuries, held up by a stellar season so far from linebackers Uchenna Nwosu and Cameron Smith. If a season that started with national title hopes ends before the College Football Playoff, it's going to be a disappointment. USC can still keep that path to the playoff alive with a win at Notre Dame, a victory that paired with a Pac-12 championship makes a strong playoff argument for the CFP Selection Committee.
Notre Dame: After a week off, this is the first game in a stretch that will define the 2017 Notre Dame season. By playing Georgia tough in a one-point loss, Notre Dame earned some credit as a team that can hang with the best in the country. The Irish have lived up to the reputation by taking care of business elsewhere on their schedule and now enter the stretch that will define whether the 2017 season ends in the playoff or in the Sun Bowl. Notre Dame plays four top-25 teams, Wake Forest and Navy over the next six Saturdays. That grind includes trips to Miami and Stanford and a visit from a surging NC State team next week. Going 4-2 seems just as likely as going 2-4, but while running the table looks difficult, it's not impossible. An 11-1 Irish team its only loss coming to Georgia has a good profile for the playoff -- but of course all of that is out the window with a loss to USC on Saturday night.
The key matchup here is Notre Dame's ground attack against USC's beat-up front. Josh Adams runs hard and is good for at least one breakaway run per game. When he takes a break they've got Deon McIntosh or Dexter Williams ready to step in and quarterback Brandon Wimbush to carry the run game. It feels like a game that could come down to the final possessions, and if it's the Irish with the ball I like their chances. Pick: Notre Dame -3.5