Wednesday, November 24, 2010
What to watch from Notre Dame: Week 13
By Brian Bennett
What to watch from Notre Dame in the Irish's game at USC on Saturday night:
1. Rivalry rebound?: The Irish have had some close calls at home against USC, including last season. On the road, it's been a much different story, as the Trojans have won the past four meetings in L.A. by an average of of nearly 30 points. Pete Carroll owned Notre Dame, but now it's a new era with Lane Kiffin going against Brian Kelly. USC has out-athleted Notre Dame for most of the past decade, and especially given the injuries on the Irish, that would seem to be the case again this year. But the way Kelly's team has played the past two weeks suggests it can put up more of a challenge in the Coliseum. Just doing that would be a sign of progress.
Notre Dame's defense has dominated opponents in November. The unit has allowed a total of six points in the past two games.
2. Can the defense keep it up?: Bob Diaco's defense has been lights out in November, allowing no touchdowns the past two games against Utah and Army. That came after Tulsa scored just one offensive touchdown in the final game of October. All three of those opponents had great offensive stats, but USC has done it against better competition, scoring 35 on Stanford, 32 on Oregon and 24 on Arizona. The Trojans are a well-balanced attack, but they might have to do without starting quarterback Matt Barkley because of an ankle sprain. The Irish defense can really prove itself this week.
3. Rees on the road: Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees is 2-0 and he did win a start against Army away from South Bend. But Yankee Stadium was Irish-friendly territory. This will be a true road test not just for Rees, but for the other youngsters who have played big roles for the Irish like running back Cierre Wood, tight end Tyler Eifert and receiver Robby Toma. How will they respond under the lights in a hostile environment?