Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

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

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34 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED and is playing behind a decimated offensive line? "I'm not sure what exactly Dar‑ nold can do to get back on track," Swanson stated. "It would be easy to say cut down on turnovers and don't make those bad decisions, but those decisions come because of his incred‑ ible ability to process information and release the ball quickly. "USC shouldn't want him to change that part of his game. What he needs to get back on track is pro‑ tection up front, the line to establish more of a run game and more receiv‑ ers getting open." The Trojans don't need a major breakout from the offense, which has had plenty of good moments. The rea‑ son is it has a defense that continues to improve, and one that has proven it can get after the quarterback. Through five games, USC ranked 12th nation‑ ally with 3.2 sacks per game. "USC has a very good defense, one of the better defenses in the Pac‑12," Swanson said of the stronger unit. "The defensive line has been a pleas‑ ant surprise, the linebackers are among the best groups in the entire country and I think the secondary is better than average." Junior Cameron Smith came into the season as the most decorated line‑ backer on the roster, earning second‑ team All‑Pac‑12 honors after the 2016 season and second‑team preseason All‑America accolades from Ath- lon. Smith led the Trojans in tackles through the team's first five games, but it is senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu who has broken out as the star with 30 tackles and eight passes broken up through five games. "Uchenna Nwosu, in my opin‑ ion, is USC's best defensive player," Swanson said. "He's clearly all‑con‑ ference caliber, and I would expect him to at least be in the discussion for some All‑American teams. "I see a guy that was athletic enough to play safety, who put on a bunch of weight and kept all those skills. That's why you see the batted balls, the interceptions, the defensive back qualities, all close to the line of scrimmage, while he's still filling holes and beating up tailbacks." USC gave up 433 yards on the ground in the first two games, but just 303 over its next three. "USC has a good run defense," Swanson noted. "It was a very real concern for USC before the season and after the first game, but I feel good about saying USC's run de‑ fense is solid. "That being said, there have been moments of concern this season, and I'm not sure how it would stack up against a top 10 level team focused on running the ball. "USC hasn't played that team yet, but I would expect USC to control most teams at the line of scrimmage defensively." The Trojans will face that team when it travels to South Bend. Through five games, Notre Dame ranked seventh nationally in rushing yards per game (301.4), and only one Power Five team that doesn't run the triple option was ranked ahead of the Irish — Alabama. Swanson also believes Notre Dame holds a slight advantage when it comes to how its defense matches up against the USC offense, due mainly to a Trojans line that was struggling to protect Darnold before it lost Tala‑ maivao for the season. "I believe Notre Dame's defense will probably have the edge over the USC offense," Swanson said. "If USC's offensive line isn't completely healthy, I have a hard time imagining some of those backups competing with Notre Dame's defensive front. "I don't think USC has many re‑ ceiving options that scare Notre Dame. … All that being said, Sam Darnold and the USC backfield will give anyone concerns, and I think USC's defense can hang with most anyone and keep USC in most any game." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: USC 2017 USC SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 2 Western Michigan W, 49-31 Sept. 9 Stanford W, 42-24 Sept. 16 Texas W, 27-24 (2OT) Sept. 23 at California W, 30-20 Sept. 29 at Washington State L, 30-27 Oct. 7 Oregon State 38-10 Oct. 14 Utah (ABC) 8 p.m. Oct. 21 at Notre Dame (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Arizona State TBA Nov. 4 Arizona TBA Nov. 11 at Colorado TBA Nov. 18 UCLA TBA Senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu was outstanding for the Trojans through five games, making 30 tack- les and breaking up eight passes. PHOTO BY JOHN MCGILLEN/USC ATHLETICS 2017 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 2 Temple W, 49-16 Sept. 9 Georgia L, 20-19 Sept. 16 at Boston College W, 49-20 Sept. 23 at Michigan State W, 38-18 Sept. 30 Miami (Ohio) W, 52-17 Oct. 7 North Carolina W, 33-10 Oct. 21 USC (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 NC State (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4 Wake Forest (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Miami (Fla.) TBA Nov. 18 Navy (NBC) 3:30 p.m. Nov. 25 at Stanford TBA

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