Friday, October 18, 2013

How Notre Dame Should Game Plan For USC

On paper, Notre Dame should win against USC. They both played Arizona State in consecutive weeks. The Trojans got embarrassed by giving up 62 points and a week later the Fighting Irish had their best game of the year. However, there are a couple factors that still make me nervous on this one. First, this is THE  rival and Notre Dame has not beat USC in South Bend since 2002. Getting a monkey like that off your back is never easy regardless of the circumstances. Second, USC looked like a totally different team against Arizona in their first game with Ed Orgeron as Interim Head Coach.

So thinking of all that, it is always important to have a great game plan. Starting with the defense, they need to pick up where they left off against Arizona State. That pressure was awesome and needs to keep up against USC. They have a young quarterback in Cody Kessler who has yet to play a team that has the potential to rush him the way the Irish can. That pressure is key because if he is given time, I don't think either Bennett Jackson or KeVare Russell can cover Marqise Lee. But that is a moot point if Kessler can't get him the ball.

Notre Dame has been solid all year against the run and they will certainly have a challenge this week against Silas Redd and Tre Madden. But I see the Irish defensive line overpowering the Trojan offensive line.

Now looking at the offense, the key is patience in the running game and time of possession in the first half. I know that it is always an urge to go for a big play early, but that is not the correct thing to do this week. The reason why is USC wears down in the second half. The fact is that they have lost a lot of scholarships because of the sanctions and don't have the same depth as most programs.

Just take a look at their last two opponents. In that embarrassing loss to Arizona State, it is easy to forget that it was a tight game at the half. It was mentioned that they gave up 62 points, well 42 of them were in the second half. Even against Arizona, USC wore down. They gave up a touchdown late in the first half and gave up three more in the second half. As good as they looked in that game, the Wildcats nearly rallied to beat them.

What that tells me is that in the first half, George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, and Amir Carlisle really need to run that ball a lot. Tommy Rees and TJ Jones need to have patience. They will have their opportunities in the second half, The points will be there but the key early is running the ball and time of possession. That will wear this defense that has limited depth. Then in the second half, open that playbook up. This team has given up 63 second half points in their last two games. If Notre Dame is tied or even slightly behind at the half, they are in great shape for a big second half.

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