Three keys: Notre Dame-USC

Three keys: Notre Dame-USC
October 18, 2013, 7:45 pm
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1. Stop the run

Notre Dame's front seven has generally succeeded in stopping opposing running backs, and will have to continue doing so against USC's loaded backfield. Muting the production of Tre Madden, Silas Redd and Justin Davis is key; doing so would force USC quarterback Cody Kessler into passing downs, an area in which the Trojans have struggled this year.

2. Don't turn the ball over

USC and Notre Dame are fairly similar in that neither defense forces many turnovers (8 for USC, 7 for Notre Dame) nor turns the ball over much (9 for USC, 7 for Notre Dame). In a game where one turnover might swing momentum -- as it did in 2011 -- Notre Dame can't afford to be on the wrong side of that.

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3. Pressure Kessler

The Trojans rank 81st in sacks allowed, with their quarterbacks being dropped about two times per game. This is an extremely potent offense, one that'll probably rack up yards no matter what Notre Dame does on defense. But with a raucous nighttime crowd on their side, Notre Dame could shift things in their favor a few times by sacking Kessler. Plus, doing so would force USC into passing downs (i.e. second/third and long), which is where the Irish defense can make its mark.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, USC 27