Oct. 22, 2011; South Bend, IN, USA; USC Trojans defensive end Devon Kennard (42) pressures Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees (11) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. USC won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

USC vs. Notre Dame: Trojan keys to victory

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.

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  • Ben Factor

    1. I expect pressure on both QBs, and if there is not, the passing targets for both teams are superior to their defensive counterparts. The issue may be whether USC has the depth to keep it up.

    2. The ND defensive line is excellent. I don’t think USC’s running game will set up as well, and Madden’s absence is a further blow. It’s a great opportunity for Allen. The NFL is a passing league, and I think USC will need to pursue more of that pro-style this week. In addition, I think that more hurry-up makes sense against this team. The ND defensive front is too good unless they are kept off-balance.

    3. IMHO, not a lot should be expected of Lee. I think this is Rogers’s week, because Agholor will be blanketed. ND managed to hinder ASU’s short passing game. This is a real test for Helton and Kessler. It should be interesting.

    • Matthew Moreno

      Hopefully Breslin will be able to give it a go. He, along with Kennard and Tavai will be big in the Trojans’ effort to control the edges.

      I agree Rogers could very well have a break out game. Hopefully he’ll be given the opportunity to shine.

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