Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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32 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL A nine-game winning streak to close out the 2016 season sent USC into this campaign with immensely high expectations. The Trojans started the year ranked No. 4 in both the Associated Press and the coaches polls. USC won its first four games, al- though only its 42-24 win over Stan- ford was convincing. Then the Tro- jans lost 30-27 at Washington State Sept. 29, with warts that began to show in previous games on full dis- play. "USC is a team with a very good defense and a flawed offense," Tro- publisher Chris Swan- son said. "I think the Trojans are a solid top-20 team that could possibly hang with most anyone in the coun- try on any given Saturday, but they could also be upset on any given Sat- urday as well." USC was a trendy pick for the play- offs coming into the season. Lindy's had the Trojans facing the Ohio State Buckeyes in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals. With just one loss and a difficult schedule remaining, the Trojans are still in the thick of the competition for a playoff berth, but whether or not they have the depth to navigate that schedule remains uncertain. Re- gardless, a Pac-12 championship is still very much in the mix. "I expect USC's quarterback, back- field and defense to will them to nine or 10 wins in the regular season," Swanson said. "Because of that, USC should compete for the Pac-12 title. "But I don't believe this is a na- tional title-contending type team, unless there's drastic improvement from the receivers, the offensive line and the offensive play calling." Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold was the primary factor in the lofty preseason expectations for the Trojans. Lindy's rated his as the top candidate for the Heisman Trophy prior to the season, and Ath- lon had him No. 2. He was outstanding last season, passing for 3,086 yards and 31 touch- downs in 10 starts, including a 453- yard, five-touchdown performance in a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. However, the Trojans' offensive line lost more than 100 career starts and their receiving corps was absent its top two pass catchers — including JuJu Smith-Schuster, a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 NFL Draft. GAME PREVIEW: USC ANY GIVEN SATURDAY The Trojans have not lived up to their lofty preseason expectations, but remain a dangerous team Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME VS. USC Game Info Date: Oct. 21, 2017. Site: Notre Dame Stadium (77,622). Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET. Television: NBC. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the 89th meeting between Notre Dame and USC. The Irish lead the all-time series 46-37-5. Head Coaches: USC — Clay Helton (21-8, third season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (64-32, eighth season). Noting USC: Notre Dame has won the last two home games against USC, beating the Trojans 41-31 in 2015 and 14-10 in 2013 … USC redshirt sophomore long snapper Jake Olson lost his sight at the age of 12 due to retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina. During USC's 49-31 victory over Western Michigan, Olson became just the second blind student-athlete to play in a game, joining Tulane long snapper Aaron Golub, who saw game action in 2015.

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