It’s only fitting Notre Dame’s season would end like this.
The Irish needing to beat USC in the Coliseum to advance to the BCS national championship. Did anyone think that was possible at the beginning of the season? ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Irish fans not to get offended when he said Notre Dame’s schedule set them up to only win seven games.
Needless to say the Irish exceeded his expectations. And look where they are now, at the brink of playing for all the marbles, most likely against an SEC opponent.
They have to get by the Trojans and their aerial assault first.
Whether it’s freshman Max Whittek’s first career start or not, the Irish need to be ready for possibly the best receiver duo in the nation. Marquise Lee is the nation’s top receiver (107 catches for 1,605) and Robert Woods is his faithful sidekick. If USC wasn’t having such a disappointing season, Lee could very well be the Heisman favorite.
Notre Dame cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson will have their hands full. Both started their Irish careers at receiver and running back and now they will be facing the best passing attack in the country. They have solidified the largest question market for the nation’s number one scoring unit (10.09ppg).
It’s going to be key for the Irish secondary to remain alert. They allowed Oklahoma’s Landry Jones to throw for 356 yards in ND’s win on Oct. 27 in Norman, but only gave up one touchdown. They can’t afford any missed tackles against the Trojans.
A positive stat for Irish fans: Notre Dame has only 55 missed tackles this season, good for third-fewest among BCS schools. Opponents have completed just 7 of 41 pass attempts of 20 or more yards, scoring only one touchdown to four Irish interceptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Irish need to get pressure up front and force Wittek to make quick decisions, which could end up in a turnover. Not allowing the young quarterback to get the ball to USC’s playmakers is key.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, only fitting during rivalry week.
Will Wilson is a writer for Rant Sports covering College Football and Big Ten Conference.
Follow Will on Twitter: @GoPackGo1