USC vs. Notre Dame Gameday Guide 2017: Matchups, lineups, links, odds and more

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Sam Darnold /

USC vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stadium | South Bend, IN4:30 p.m. Pacific | NBCAll-time Series: 46-36-5Last meeting: USC 45, Notre Dame 27 in 2016

The biggest rivalry matchup of the year has arrived, with even more on the line than normal, as No. 11 USC battles No. 13 Notre Dame for bragging rights and postseason possibilities.

The Trojans have not won in South Bend since 2011, but they’ll be making the trek with a full-time head coach and a healthy starting quarterback for the first team in two trips.

The 5-1 Irish are on the cusp of exceeding expectations after a difficult 4-8 slog in 2016. After an early and close loss to now-highly-ranked Georgia, Notre Dame has ripped off four straight victories to put themselves on the track to playoff consideration.

USC is also looking to get back in the playoff race after suffering a loss to Washington State in Week 5. The Trojans are 6-1, their best start since 2012. The next step is avoiding a 2012-esque meltdown to end the season.

Whose playoff hopes will survive the weekend?

Gameday Links:

Preview Podcast:

Co-hosts Michael Castillo and Alicia de Artola preview USC’s matchup with Notre Dame, including a look at the Irish offense and defense along with over/unders and score predictions.

LISTEN: USC vs Notre Dame Preview

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USC Injury Report:

  • Out for season: DL Kenny Bigelow (retirement), K Michael Brown (knee), CB Greg Johnson (shoulder), LB Tayler Katoa (knee), CB Jonathan Lockett (hip), S Isaiah Pola-Mao (shoulder), OL Viane Talamaivao (pectoral), DL Marlon Tuipulotu (back), WR Keyshawn “Pie” Young (hamstring/redshirt)
  • Out: RB Stephen Carr (foot), OLB Hunter Echols (hip), DL Josh Fatu (concussion), OLB Porter Gustin (toe/bicep), Damon Johnson (back/concussion), OT Nathan Smith (knee) 
  • Probable: OL Chuma Edoga (ankle), DL Rasheem Green (ankle), TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hip), Ronald Jones II (ankle), CB Isaiah Langley (illness), OL Toa Lobendahn (pectoral)

Notre Dame Injury Report:

  • Out for season: DL Daniel Cage (concussions), WR Freddy Canteen (shoulder), DL Elijah Taylor (foot)
  • Out: LB Greer Martini (knee)
  • Probable: RB Josh Adams (ankle), RB Tony Jones (ankle), RB Dexter Williams (ankle), QB Brandon Wimbush (foot)

Click here for more details from the USC and Notre Dame injury reports.

When USC has the ball…

USC’s offense will have to unlock a Notre Dame rushing and passing defense which stands among the nation’s best this season.

“The defensive front jumps off the film right now,” head coach Clay Helton said of the opposing defense this week.

Led by nose guard Jerry Tillery, who USC fans will remember negatively for some extra curriculars in last year’s matchup, the Notre Dame defensive front has given up just one rushing touchdown this year.

With Daelin Hayes, a former USC commit, coming off the edge, the Irish have only generated 13 sacks and 35 total tackles for loss so far this season.

Still, the Irish have limited opposing offenses to 3.72 yards per carry by stacking the box and forcing quarterbacks to throw.

Pass defense has also been a strength, with opposing QBs averaging a passer rating of 112.45, throwing 10 touchdowns to six interceptions as a whole.

Luckily for the Trojans, Sam Darnold is the best quarterback Notre Dame’s secondary will have face this season, though his penchant for turning the ball over could be key to the matchup.

CHECK OUT: Ronald Jones II Is USC’s Best Pure Back Since Marcus Allen

It’s also fair to say that Ronald Jones II is one of the best running backs on the Irish’s schedule. USC’s balanced attack could undo Notre Dame, but the Trojans will first have to avoid undoing themselves against a defense which has pounced on 14 turnovers.

Projected ND Defense

  • DE Daelin Hayes #9
  • DT Jonathan Bonner #55
  • NG Jerry Tillery #99
  • DE Jay Hayes #93
  • BUCK Te’Von Coney #4
  • MIKE Nyles Morgan #5
  • ROV Drue Tranquill #23
  • CB Julian Love #27
  • FS Nick Coleman #24
  • SS Jalen Elliott #21
  • CB Nick Watkins #7

Projected USC Offense

  • WR Steven Mitchell #4
  • WR Deontay Burnett #80
  • TE Tyler Petite #82
  • RT Chuma Edoga #70
  • RG Andrew Vorhees #72
  • C Nico Falah #74
  • LG Chris Brown #77
  • LT Toa Lobendahn #50
  • WR Tyler Vaughns #21
  • QB Sam Darnold #14
  • RB Ronald Jones II #25

When Notre Dame has the ball…

The Irish may boast the most formidable offensive attack USC will face this year, certainly when it comes to a ground attack which ranks fifth in college football.

“Josh Adams is doing an unbelievable job of carrying the load for them right now,” Helton said.

Adams is rushing at an outstanding 9.02 yards per carry this season, tallying 776 yards and five touchdowns.

Though the Irish can also receiving major contributions from the likes of Deon McIntosh, Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr. at the running back spot, their second leading rusher is actually quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

Wimbush has gained 402 yards on the ground, leading Notre Dame with eight touchdowns running. He has also thrown for 782 yards and six touchdowns with just two interceptions.

“Last year they were more of a pass first football team but Brandon brings an aspect of being a dual threat,” Helton said. “Then you look at him outside, he is a kid that can spin the ball.”

SEE ALSO: 10 Best USC Linebackers of All-Time

When Wimbush passes, chances are he’s aiming for 6-foot-5 receiver Equanimeous St. Brown or 6-foot-4 tight end Alize Mack, Notre Dame’s most dangerous passing targets.

The Trojans will have their hands full stopping the Irish rushing attack considering injuries on the defensive line which have true freshman Brandon Pili making his first career start on Saturday.

Still, if USC can do to Adams and the Irish what they did to Stanford’s Bryce Love, containing the Cardinal to a season-worst 170 yards on the ground, then they will have a chance to even the playing field by forcing Wimbush win the game through the air.

Projected ND Offense

  • WR Equanimeous St. Brown #6
  • WR Chase Claypool #83
  • LT Mike McGlinchey #68
  • LG Quenton Nelson #56
  • C Sam Mustipher #53
  • RG Alex Bars #71
  • RT Tommy Kraemer #78
  • TE Durahm Smythe #80
  • WR Cam Smith #15
  • QB Brandon Wimbush #7
  • RB Josh Adams #33

Projected USC Defense

  • SLB Uchenna Nwosu #42
  • DE Rasheem Green #94
  • DT Brandon Pili #91
  • DT Malik Dorton #44
  • PRED Christian Rector #89
  • MLB Cameron Smith #35
  • WLB John Houston #10
  • CB Iman Marshall #8
  • SS Chris Hawkins #4
  • FS Marvell Tell #7
  • CB Jack Jones #25