It’s that time of the week once again and the Irish Blogger Gathering is ready to start previewing Notre Dame’s tilt under the lights against Southern Cal.
This week, Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish answered my questions three. You will find my answers later today on UND.com’s Strong and True blog.
The rest of the IBG is as follows this week:
Southern Cal has definitely had quite a crazy season. From failing under Kiffin, firing him, having Coach Orgeron take over, watching their already thin roster get devastated by injuries, what is your overall take on the Trojans as they roll into South Bend this weekend?
They are a team with nothing to lose. And when you mix talent, a chip on the shoulders, and a really big rivalry game, that’s a pretty dangerous mix. Of course, they’re also the team that gave up 62 points to Arizona State, lost to Washington State and struggled almost across the board this year.
The ten win team Lane Kiffin coached used the underdog mentality to fuel them as they went on a revenge tour. They didn’t have the ability to play with a target on their back as we saw last year. I tend to think they’re a team that should be respected, but they are also a team that’s very fragile mentally.
Southern Cal appears to be a team (under both Kiffin and Orgeron) that tries to strike early, but stumbles late. The Irish on the other hand have stumbled early and been a team that can come on strong in the second half. Something has to give here — can the Irish sustain early mistakes to come back late or is a strong Irish start a requirement for victory?
I don’t think a strong start is a requirement, but a terrible start would be a killer. Thinking back to the last time USC played at Notre Dame, you couldn’t have scripted that opening any worse. Likewise, the last start at home against Oklahoma wasn’t all that hot, either.
The Trojans fade down the stretch because they lack depth. Ed Orgeron talked about it after recapping the Arizona victory. Mentally and physically, Brian Kelly’s team is stronger. But they can’t provide any gimmes to the Trojans, and they’ve got to be clean on special teams and protect the football.
All that being said, Notre Dame can come back and beat USC if they need to. The Trojans were in a close game with ASU into the third quarter before the boat race began. But that’s certainly not the strength of this Irish team, so this isn’t the preferred path to victory.
Notre Dame has not defended Rock’s House from Trojan victory since 2001. Does such a losing streak to your biggest rival make this game an even bigger must-win, especially considering all the troubles that they’ve seen this season?
Not really. This feels a little bit like when Michigan State had that winning streak going at Notre Dame Stadium, which felt all the longer because of a layoff for a few years, and was kind of negated since the Irish had some success at Spartan Stadium. But it’s a talking point that I’m sure you’ll hear all week as well as on the broadcast.
BUT… It might matter most to the fans. I’d be very disappointed if the stadium gets deflated if the Irish get off to a slow start, especially because this is one of those games where the home crowd should be a legitimate factor, especially with quarterback Cody Kessler still very much a work in progress.