Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

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

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Page 36 of 55 OCT. 23, 2017 37 Dame's dominance in the red zone. In five games, Notre Dame scored on all 22 of its trips into the red zone, with 20 resulting in touchdowns — including 15 on the ground, second most in the country. Junior running back Josh Adams ranked seventh in the country in rushing yards per game (131.6), and his 9.01 yards per attempt ranked second among all players with at least 50 carries on the season. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. USC PASS DEFENSE Notre Dame struggled to get its passing game going through the season's first five weeks, rank- ing 108th in the country with just 166.6 yards per contest. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush com- pleted just 52.3 percent of his passes, and the Irish offense ranked 116th in yards per attempt (5.95) and 85th in yards per completion (11.57). For Notre Dame to have its offense at a level to beat USC and the tougher opponents in October and November, the aerial attack must improve. Get- ting more production from a pure yardage stand- point is not the issue. What Notre Dame must do is improve its ability to stretch the field and create more big plays. In order to do that, the Irish will need junior wide- out Equanimeous St. Brown and junior tight end Alizé Mack to improve. St. Brown averaged 16.6 yards per catch in 2016 and Mack averaged 14.6 yards per catch in 2015. Through five games in 2017, St. Brown was averaging just 14.4 yards per recep- tion and Mack was at 10.6 yards per catch. USC's pass defense ranked 82nd in the country by allowing 241.4 yards per game, just one spot ahead of Notre Dame's defense. Like the Irish group, its pass game performance has been a bit better than its total yards showed. The Trojans ranked 31st nationally in yards per at- tempt allowed (6.2) and 50th in yards per comple- tion surrendered (50th). The Trojan defense gave up eight touchdown passes but did manage to intercept eight passes. USC has been highly disruptive in the first five games, sacking opposing quarterbacks 16 times and registering 14 hurries. Fatu and redshirt sophomore defensive end Christian Rector led the way with four QB takedowns apiece. Advantage: USC SPECIAL TEAMS Neither team has been very dynamic on special teams this season. Both Notre Dame (No. 110) and USC (No. 119) sit near the bottom of the national rankings in kick coverage through five games, and neither is ranked in the top 50 of punt return aver- age or punt coverage. Notre Dame senior punter Tyler Newsome (44.6- yard average with 10 fair catches) and USC junior punter Reid Budrovich (45.6-yard average with five fair catches) have been productive. Where USC gains the advantage was in its return game and at placekicker. The Trojans ranked 25th in the country in kick returns thanks to the 28.5- yard average of redshirt freshman Velus Jones. Freshman placekicker Chase McGrath was 7 of 8 on field goals this season, while Notre Dame junior Justin Yoon was 6 of 9 through five games. Advantage: USC COACHING USC head coach Clay Helton is 20-8 at USC, but his record as the full-time coach is more impres- sive. Helton went 6-4 in two different stints as the interim head coach but is 14-4 since the beginning of 2016, which is when his tenure as the full-time head coach for the Trojans began. Helton led the Trojans to 13 straight wins dating back to October of last season. That streak ended when USC lost 30-27 to Washington State Sept. 29. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has the Irish back on track in 2017, with the team winning as many games in September (four) as it did all of last season. Helton is certainly off to a good start, but Kelly is the more proven coach with a much longer track record. Kelly and Helton have both won a game against each other, with each team holding serve at home the last two seasons. Advantage: Notre Dame INTANGIBLES Notre Dame has gone 4-3 against USC during Kelly's tenure, and it has won its last two games at home against the Trojans, who have beaten the Irish on their home field the last two matchups in Los Angeles. There is little doubt that both teams have tal- ented rosters, but up to this point Notre Dame has been the more healthy team. Combined with the home-field advantage the Irish have the edge in this area. Advantage: Notre Dame GAME PREVIEW: USC Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 10 Jalen Greene 6-2 200 R-Jr. 21 Tyler Vaughns 6-2 185 R-Fr. WR 80 Deontay Burnett 6-0 170 Jr. 23 Velus Jones Jr. 6-0 190 R-Fr. TE 82 Tyler Petite 6-4 250 Jr. 84 Erik Krommenhoek 6-5 245 Fr. or 83 Josh Falo 6-6 235 Fr. RT 70 Chuma Edoga 6-4 295 Jr. 72 Andrew Vorhees 6-6 310 Fr. or 76 Clayton Johnston 6-5 295 R-So. RG 72 Andrew Vorhees 6-6 310 Fr. 56 Jordan Austin 6-5 290 R-Jr. C 74 Nico Falah 6-4 285 5th-Sr. 66 Cole Smith 6-3 275 R-So. or 62 Brett Neilon 6-2 295 Fr. LG 77 Chris Brown 6-5 310 R-Jr. 63 Roy Hemsley 6-5 315 R-So. LT 50 Toa Lobendahn 6-3 290 R-Jr. 73 Austin Jackson 6-6 290 Fr. WR 4 Steven Mitchell Jr. 5-10 195 5th-Sr. 6 Michael Pittman Jr. 6-4 215 So. or 1 Joseph Lewis IV 6-2 205 Fr. QB 14 Sam Darnold 6-4 220 R-So. 19 Matt Fink 6-3 190 R-Fr. FB 47 Reuben Peters 6-0 230 R-Jr. TB 25 Ronald Jones II 6-0 200 Jr. 7 Stephen Carr 6-0 210 Fr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. OLB 42 Uchenna Nwosu 6-2 240 Sr. 99 Oluwole Betiku Jr. 6-3 250 So. DE 94 Rasheem Green 6-4 275 Jr. 89 Christian Rector 6-4 275 R-So. NT 98 Josh Fatu 6-2 315 Sr. 51 Marlon Tuipulotu 6-3 295 Fr. DE 44 Malik Dorton 6-2 280 R-Jr. 89 Christian Rector 6-4 275 R-So. OLB 89 Christian Rector 6-4 275 R-So. 45 Porter Gustin 6-5 255 Jr. or 90 Connor Murphy 6-7 260 So. ILB 35 Cameron Smith 6-2 250 Jr. 56 Jordan Iosefa 6-2 225 So. ILB 10 John Houston Jr. 6-3 210 R-So. 56 Jordan Iosefa 6-2 225 So. CB 8 Iman Marshall 6-1 205 Jr. 21 Jamel Cook 6-4 190 R-Fr. or 9 Greg Johnson 5-11 195 Fr. NK 27 Ajene Harris 5-10 190 R-Jr. 14 Ykili Ross 6-1 190 R-So. SS 4 Chris Hawkins 5-11 190 5th-Sr. 28 C.J. Pollard 6-1 185 R-Fr. or 2 Bubba Bolden 6-3 190 Fr. FS 7 Marvell Tell III 6-2 195 Jr. 37 Matt Lopes 5-11 200 5th-Sr. CB 25 Jack Jones 5-11 170 So. 24 Isaiah Langley 6-0 175 Jr. USC DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. P 46 Reid Budrovich 5-11 185 R-Jr. 36 Chris Tilbey 6-5 215 R-Jr. PK 40 Chase McGrath 6-0 190 Fr. 49 Michael Brown 6-1 195 R-Fr. KO 49 Michael Brown 6-1 195 R-Fr. 40 Chase McGrath 6-0 190 Fr. SNP 48 Damon Johnson 6-0 200 Fr. 46 Wyatt Schmidt 6-3 205 R-Jr. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. HLD 46 Wyatt Schmidt 6-3 205 R-Jr. 14 Sam Darnold 6-4 220 R-So. KOR 23 Velus Jones Jr. 6-0 190 R-Fr. 7 Stephen Carr 6-0 210 Fr. PR 27 Ajene Harris 5-10 190 R-Jr. 25 Jack Jones 5-11 170 So. or 80 Deontay Burnett 6-0 170 Jr. Special Teams

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