Well, the Luck of the Irish was in rare form last week with top ranked Kansas State and second ranked Oregon both suffering major upsets, and with USC quarterback Matt Barkley going down with an injury in a 38-28 Trojans’ loss to UCLA.
Those three events now have the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on top of the BCS Standings and one win away from a berth on the BCS Championship Game, and they will now be road favorites over a 7-4 USC team starting a backup quarterback in Max Wittek in place of a preseason Heisman hopeful.
1. Why Notre Dame will cover the spread: Not to state the obvious, but Notre Dame will cover this spread if it can score points. What we mean by that is that the Irish defense always shows up, as it is now tied with Alabama for the best scoring defense in the country allowing just 10.1 points per game following a 38-0 wipeout of Wake Forest last week, but the offense has scored 20 points or less during regulation time six times this year and it only scored 21 points vs. outclassed Boston College. To their credit, the Irish did rise to the occasion by scoring 30 points at Oklahoma the last time they played a marquee road game, and the overrated USC defense has not been able to stop any decent offense all season.
2. Why USC will cover the spread: In a word, Wittek. USC will cover this spread if he can step right in and pass the ball effectively, especially early in the game. He does have one of the best receiving tandems in football to help him out in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. The Trojans’ goal here is to try to turn this game into a shootout, and that all starts with the passing game. Sure USC is averaging 160.5 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per rush, but that is because defenses have to respect the passing game and if Wittek is nervous or struggles early, it would allow Notre Dame to focus more on stopping the run and put the Irish in the driver’s seat.
3. Total Talk: The fewest points that USC has scored in any game this season is 14 in a loss to Stanford back in Week 2 when its offensive line was overwhelmed by a physical Stanford front seven. Unfortunately for the Trojans and for Wittek, the Notre Dame front seven is one of the best in the country and includes a Heisman Trophy candidate in linebacker Manti Te’o.
While we do respect the athleticism of the USC wide receivers, we do not think that Wittek will have enough time to get the ball to them consistently while under constant pressure, so we do not think that USC will accomplish its goal of Wittek having an effective passing game. We think that Notre Dame will have enough offensive success to win, but probably not enough to prevent an ‘under’.
4. NOTRE DAME – USC Betting Trends: The ‘under’ is 35-17-1 in the last 53 Notre Dame games vs. teams with winning records. Notre Dame is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games. The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Notre Dame’s last 10 games. The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Notre Dame’s last 6 games on the road. Notre Dame is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road. Southern Cal is 9-1 SU in its last 10 games when playing Notre Dame. Southern Cal is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games at home. The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Southern Cal’s last 7 games at home. Southern Cal is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 27 – USC 17