One of the fiercest rivalries in college football history will be renewed in Week 13 as the USC Trojans (10-1 SU, 7-4 ATS) play host to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-3, 6-5). The Trojans return home in the wake of last weekend’s narrow 48-45 victory over UCLA that extended their win streak to four games. The Irish travel to the coast looking to build on last weekend’s 44-0 rout of Boston College that marked their fifth straight victory.
Notre Dame vs USC Opening Odds
The Trojans have been on the rise since opening as 4-point favorites, climbing to the current position as 5.5-point chalk. The total has also climbed slightly to 63 since opening at 62.5.
Apart from 2020, these teams have met every year since 1926, with the coveted Jeweled Shillelagh on the line. Notre Dame has dominated this historic rivalry in recent years, winning outright in their past four dates with the Trojans, capped by a 31-16 win on home turf last season.
The trend has been toward low scoring of late, with the total topping 50 just once during the current 3-0 run for the UNDER. The Irish have also earned the win in three of their past five road dates with the Trojans to snap a four-game slide during which they lost by an average of 29.3 points.
Sophomore Rushers Sparking Irish Attack
The Fighting Irish have found a steady offensive groove during their current 5-0 run, averaging a lofty 39.8 points per game. That trend continued in last week’s win over the slumping Eagles, powered by another sensational performance by the Notre Dame ground game.
Logan Diggs galloped for 122 yards to eclipse the century mark for the third time in five outings. And with his scoring run, the sophomore rusher has now reached the end zone in two of his past three outings after failing to score in his first six appearances of the season.
The squad’s other sophomore rusher, Audric Estime, also had a big day, running for two touchdowns for the third time this season to bring his total to 11. Quarterback Drew Pyne took a step back after tossing for four scores in a narrow 35-32 win over Navy in Week 11, connecting on just 52 percent of his pass attempts for 156 yards and one TD. Pine has now connected on fewer than 53 percent of attempts in five of six outings.
Caleb Williams Powering Trojans’ Resurgence
The Trojans remained in the College Football Playoff conversation with last week’s victory over UCLA. Already assured of a berth in the Pac-12 championship game by virtue of their sparkling 8-1 record, USC also vaulted to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 in the wake of their win over the Bruins, but will likely need to demonstrate more dominance to crack a top four dominated by undefeated squads.
With so much on the line, the Trojans will be looking for quarterback Caleb Williams to continue to progress after throwing for a career-high 470 yards last weekend. With his two TD passes against UCLA, Williams has now found the end zone 19 times over the past four games. However, he must remain wary of a Fighting Irish pass defense that has racked up eight interceptions over the past four games, including three picks last weekend by freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison.
Another steady outing from Williams is particularly important after the team lost leading rusher Travis Dye to a season-ending injury two weeks ago. However, senior Austin Jones did step up to fill the void in the backfield last weekend, running for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and has now scored in two straight outings.
Notre Dame: Keys To Victory
Accuracy issues continue to trouble Drew Pyne, who has now connected on just one TD pass in three of four outings. Those concerns have been masked by some outstanding defensive performances, as well as steady production from the Irish ground game, which could be poised to make hay against a Trojans defense that has allowed multiple scoring runs in each of their past three outings.
USC: Keys To Victory
Caleb Williams’ continued development has provided a massive boost to the Trojans. That includes his contributions to the ground game with four scoring runs over the past three games, which have been critical particularly since the loss of Dye. However, this team must find a greater sense of urgency out of the gate after reaching the end zone just once in the first quarter in their past three outings.
College Football Computer Pick: USC -5.5
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