Line: USC -5
Notre Dame vs USC Breakdown and Betting Odds
The No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-3) are heading to Los Angeles for a rivalry game with the No. 6 USC Trojans (10-1) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Trojans are 5-point favorites. The over/under is set at 64.5 points. The winner will win the Jeweled Shillelagh.
Notre Dame and USC have played all but four years since 1926, losing three years to World War II and the 2020 COVID season. Notre Dame has won the last four matchups, winning by multiple scores in 2017 and 2021. This is the first game in California since 2018 because the 2020 game was canceled. Notre Dame leads the all-time season 48-36-5, but USC has won two of the last three home games.
Notre Dame Overview
While the Irish are ranked in both major polls (No. 15 in the College Football Playoff and No. 13 in the AP poll), they have had a tumultuous season. In their first season under Marcus Freeman, they opened with back-to-back losses. Losing to No. 2 Ohio State is understandable, but an unranked Marshall walked into South Bend and shocked the then-No. 8 Irish. Notre Dame has ripped off eight wins in nine games, but their lone loss came against a horrible Stanford team. Notre Dame is 3-1 against ranked teams, knocking off No. 16 BYU, No. 16 Syracuse, and No. 5 Clemson. After their back-to-back wins over Syracuse and Clemson, they returned to the polls.
Notre Dame only ranks 51st in scoring, but they have been red-hot of late. They have 35 or more points in five consecutive games, scoring 41 or more against UNLV, Syracuse, and Boston College. Quarterback Drew Pyne has persevered through a rough start to have a strong statline. He has 21 total touchdowns with just five interceptions. The Irish have had an effective ground attack led by Logan Diggs and Audric Estime. Diggs leads the team in carries, but Estime has been wildly efficient, ripping off 5.8 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. Estime leads the team in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. In the pass-catching realm, superstar tight end Michael Mayer has been a force to be reckoned with. He dwarfs the rest of the team with 59 catches, 711 yards, and seven touchdowns. All three figures more than double the player in second place.
Statistically, the Irish have had a better defense. They rank 27th with 20.3 points allowed per game. They have allowed opposing passers to complete only 56.5% of passes for under 200 yards per game. On the rushing front, the Irish have held teams to 3.8 yards per carry. Isaiah Foskey has been particularly dominant with 11 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. Eight other players have multiple sacks. Benjamin Morrison has been a takeaway machine on the back end. He has five of Notre Dame’s nine total interceptions. One of his picks turned into a pick-six. Brandon Joseph has also been excellent for the Irish, and he could be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
In their last five games, Notre Dame is 3-2 ATS. In games they were favored, they are 1-2 ATS but 3-0 straight up. The Irish won both games in which they were underdogs (Syracuse and Clemson). The over is 5-0 in the last five games, but the total has not been higher than 48, so this streak is not as impressive compared to the total for this week’s game.
Lincoln Riley’s first season with the Trojans has been a resounding success. Beginning the year at No. 14 in the polls, USC opened with six consecutive wins to rise as high as No. 6. They lost by one in Salt Lake City to then-No. 20 Utah, falling to No. 10 in the polls. However, they rebounded to win their last four games in the Pac-12 to secure a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. At 10-1, USC essentially controls its destiny for the College Football Playoff. They are ranked No. 6, but two of the five teams ahead of them are guaranteed to lose at least once with Michigan and Ohio State playing Saturday and Georgia and LSU playing in the SEC Championship Game. A 12-1 USC will be nearly impossible to keep out of the playoffs. Even if LSU wins out, no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff.
USC has been led by an unstoppable offense. They have scored 40 or more points in nine of 11 games. They are averaging 42.7 points per game, a mark that has increased with recent performances against Colorado (53 points) and UCLA (48 points). Heisman contender Caleb Williams has posted video game numbers with an absurd 40 total touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging 9.0 yards per pass attempt, completing them at a 64.9% clip. On the ground, Travis Dye has been excellent. He will eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in the coming weeks, and he leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison has been the top option. He leads the Trojans with 51 catches, 765 yards, and eight receiving touchdowns.
USC’s defense has been undone in a few games because of their dominant offense, but it is a middle-of-the-pack unit statistically. They rank 68th in scoring defense, allowing 26.3 points per game. They have allowed 35 or more points in four games, but USC has scored at least 40 in all four of those games. Tuli Tuipolotu has been unblockable, racking up 11.5 sacks and 19.0 tackles for loss. He has forced two fumbles, and he has batted three passes. Beyond Tuipulotu, Tyrone Taleni has 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Calen Bullock has picked off four passes, and Mekhi Blackmon has three interceptions and 10 passes defended.
USC is 3-2 in their last five games ATS. They had an impressive 38-point win to cover -34.5 two weeks ago, and they even covered +3.5 in their loss to Utah. Last week, USC narrowly covered -2.5 to knock off the UCLA Bruins. Like Notre Dame, the over in USC games has hit in five consecutive games. Unlike Notre Dame, USC’s total has flirted with the high 70s, getting as high as 77.5 last week. USC has scored 41 or more in all five games, and USC’s opponent has scored 43, 37, 35, 17, and 45 in those games.
Free Pick: Over 64.5
In each team’s last five games, the fewest points one has scored is 35. Both offenses are humming, and USC has the double bonus of having an elite quarterback and a mediocre defense. As cliché as it might be to take the over in a game like this, 64.5 is an approachable number. Williams should have an excellent day, leading the Trojans to more than 30 points. If the Irish continue their strong offensive form, Over 64.5 could be in the cards as early as the third quarter.