1. Create havoc, force turnovers, win the turnover battle
Defensively, USC got off to a hot start under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. In the season opener against Hawaii, the Trojans recorded seven sacks and four interceptions.
Since that game, the numbers in each category have steadily declined. The Trojans notched two more interceptions in the horrific loss to Washington State, and have only recorded one more since.
To date, the Trojans have forced eight total turnovers total, but have themselves turned the ball over nine times.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has been intercepted in each of his last two games, including three in the Irish’s game against Oklahoma.
USC needs to get back to applying pressure on the quarterback and force Reese into hurried and ill-advised throws.
Since this game is being played in South Bend, winning the turnover battle carries more significance as it can aid an offense that is still working on finding its footing.
2. Establish the rushing attack
Cody Kessler will be making the seventh start of his career, only his third on the road, and second in a legitimate hostile environment.
Against Arizona, USC racked up 249 yards on the ground. More impressive, five tailbacks had the opportunity to carry the ball with each netting nearly a minimum of 30 yards total.
The Trojans are averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which is just a over a yard more than what the Irish defense allows per carry.
Shuffling the deck could be the key again for USC and keeping Notre Dame off balance with different rushing styles out of the backfield would benefit USC.
3. Spread the ball around
In his debut as the legitimate offensive coordinator, Clay Helton was relegated to relying on walk-on receivers in multiple formations due to injuries that decimated the receiver corps.
Instead of using it as a crutch or excuse, Helton dialed up calls that found Randall Telfer, Victor Blackwell, Tre Madden, and Javorius Allen.
With Marqise Lee possibly returning to the lineup on Saturday, it will be important for the Trojans to continue targeting all of their weapons. Focusing on just Agholor or Lee will make the job of Notre Dame’s defense much easier.