Notre Dame concedes very little on defense
November, 23, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
Matthew EmmonsWith one more win, Manti Te'o (right) and Notre Dame will play for the right to be No. 1.
(USC hosts Notre Dame on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.)
If the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can win on the road against the USC Trojans. History could, again, repeat itself.
Four different head coaches have been responsible for Notre Dame's eight national championships in the AP poll era (since 1936). All four captured their first national title in their third season at Notre Dame, and head coach Brian Kelly is in his third season at the helm in South Bend.
Notre Dame is one win from playing for the BCS Title thanks in larger part to its defense. The Irish have conceded a touchdown on 6.7 percent of their opponents’ possessions, the lowest percentage in FBS this season.
Notre Dame’s red zone defense also is the best in the nation, allowing a touchdown on 24.1 percent of their opponents’ drives inside the 20-yard line. (Opponents have seven touchdowns and five turnovers in 29 red zone possessions.) That’s the lowest percentage for any FBS team in the last eight seasons.
The defense is led by senior linebacker Manti Te'o. With two more tackles, Te'o will join Bob Crable as the second Notre Dame player with three 100-tackle seasons. Te’o also leads the Irish with six interceptions after not having any in his first three seasons.
Notre Dame's defense will be tested one more time, this time by one of the best wide receivers in the country. USC’s Marqise Lee has more receiving yards (821) in his last four games than 52 FBS teams during that time span. Lee has gained more yards after the catch (837) than any player from any BCS-AQ school, and leads FBS with eight 100-yard receiving games. However, only one player this season has 100 yards receiving against Notre Dame, Jalen Saunders from Oklahoma.
However, Lee will not have Matt Barkley throwing to him – the senior quarterback will not play because of a sprained shoulder. Since 2002, USC’s only loss to Notre Dame came in 2010 when Barkley (then a sophomore) had a sprained ankle and did not play.
Without Barkley, USC may turn to its running game. The Trojans are averaging 160 rushing yards per game, and has gained 10 yards or more on almost 17 percent of their rush attempts. Curtis McNeal has 324 yards in USC’s last two games, but he’ll face a Notre Dame defense that has allowed just three running backs to rush for 80 or more yards this season.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
6:00 PM ET 21 Texas A&M 9 South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State 18 Ole Miss 10:30 PM ET Weber State 19 Arizona State
8:00 PM ET 1 Florida State Oklahoma State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia 2 Alabama 10:30 PM ET South Dakota 3 Oregon 7:00 PM ET Louisiana Tech 4 Oklahoma 12:00 PM ET 5 Ohio State Navy 4:00 PM ET Arkansas 6 Auburn 12:00 PM ET 7 UCLA Virginia 4:00 PM ET UC Davis 11 Stanford 5:30 PM ET 16 Clemson 12 Georgia 9:00 PM ET 14 Wisconsin 13 LSU 7:30 PM ET Fresno State 15 USC 3:30 PM ET Rice 17 Notre Dame 7:10 PM ET Stephen F. Austin 20 Kansas State 3:30 PM ET Florida Atlantic 22 Nebraska 6:00 PM ET Liberty 23 North Carolina 3:30 PM ET South Dakota State 24 Missouri 10:30 PM ET 25 Washington Hawaii