2021 Game 7: USC vs. Notre Dame
USC Trojans (3-3) at No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1)
Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN, at 4:30pm PT/7:30pm ET on NBC
Irish to Watch: Junior S Kyle Hamilton
The Notre Dame offense has been extremely inconsistent all season, rotating through three quarterbacks, but the Fighting Irish are still 5-1 thanks to a stout defense and some typical late game heroics. The defense is led by Hamilton, a 2020 First Team All-American, who started the 2021 season with a two-interception performance at Florida State. He will be keyed in on Kedon Slovis, looking to make the game-changing pick in South Bend.
Beware the Bye
Both teams come into this matchup well rested, coming off a bye week which allowed both coaching staffs to reassess things at the midway point of the season. Donte Williams used the extra time to get his team locked back in to the fundamentals of the game, hoping the Trojans can find some consistency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Brian Kelly will have used the bye to sort out his offense, which ranks 87th in the country in yards per game. The Trojans will need to expect the unexpected as Kelly won't be satisfied with what he's seen so far.
Weakness vs. Weakness
USC's biggest issue this season has been run defense, giving up 180 rush yards and 3 TDs to Utah last time out. Traditionally, that would spell doom against Notre Dame which perennially features one of the biggest and best offensive lines in the country. However, this Irish team is 118th nationally in rush offense, which should give the Trojans some hope that if they can hold up in the run game, Notre Dame does not have the quarterback play to shred USC's secondary.
The USC offense is not nearly as bad as its critics suggest. The Trojans are No. 12 in the nation in passing and 30th nationally in total yards per game. The issues have been twofold. First, USC has kicked too many field goals in the red zone, leaving four points on the field each time. Second, the Trojans have played from behind so often that despite rushing for 4.5 yards per carry (the same number as Alabama), they end up giving up on the run in an effort to quickly chase points. To win in South Bend, USC will need to score touchdowns early and play from the lead.