NOTRE DAME, Ind. - No. 10 Notre Dame's defense came up with special performances the last two weeks and will need another one Saturday night when it hosts USC in the 91st meeting of the fabled rivalry. The Fighting Irish came up with eight sacks in the win over Virginia on Sept. 28 and posted their first shutout since 2014 with a 52-0 triumph last weekend against Bowling Green for the 14th straight victory at Notre Dame Stadium.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Notre Dame -11
Irish senior quarterback Ian Book hopes to match last year's meeting when he threw for 352 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 24-17 victory while the Notre Dame defense bent, but didn't break, against USC's three talented receivers. Senior Michael Pittman Jr., sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown and junior Tyler Vaughns combined for 305 receiving yards in that contest and Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters the Trojans are, "very, very deadly on offense. They can make you pay if you're not prepared and playing every single play." USC is expected to have freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis in the lineup after missing most of the last two games with a concussion and he would be backed up by junior Matt Fink, who struggled at Washington last time out on Sept. 28 when he threw three interceptions in a 28-14 loss. Notre Dame has won three of the last four meetings, averaging 45 points in the past two games at home, and leads USC 48-37-5 in the all-time series (counting every game, despite three of the wins being vacated - two by the Irish).
ABOUT USC (3-2)
The Trojans have totaled 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions from their three quarterbacks, including injured sophomore J.T. Daniels. "You just have to stay disciplined," Slovis, who has completed 77.9 percent of his passes for 732 yards, told the Los Angeles Times. "On every single interception that me and (Fink) have had, it's the same thing, just staying disciplined. If we go through our reads, we're not going to have that issue." USC ran the ball better against Washington two weeks ago with 212 yards (6.4 per carry) - 94 on seven carries from junior Stephen Carr - but leading rusher junior Vavae Malepeai (360, four TDs) is questionable with a knee injury.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (4-1)
Book has thrown 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions - both in the loss against Georgia - and boasts three talented targets with seniors Chase Claypool (24 catches, 347 yards, four TDs) and Javon McKinley (eight, 200, three) along with junior tight end Cole Kmet (15, 204, two). Junior Tony Jones Jr. leads the team with 381 yards and four scores on the ground, but he may have some help as sophomore Jafar Armstrong looks ready to return after missing four games with an abdominal injury. "Jafar brings an explosiveness to the offense that obviously we're waiting for," Kelly told reporters. "He's got top-end speed and he's big and physical. He impacts in three ways."
1. Pittman (501 receiving yards), Vaughns (414) and St. Brown (238) have combined for nine touchdowns through the air this year.
2. Notre Dame senior DL Julian Okwara has four sacks combined in the last two games after being shut out the first three.
3. The Irish sit second in the nation with a plus-10 turnover margin and the Trojans are near the bottom at minus-7.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 34, USC 24
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