NCF Nation: Everson
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
What to watch from a Notre Dame perspective in Saturday's game against USC:
1. Jimmy Clausen vs. Taylor Mays: Earlier this season, we had the treat of watching Tim Tebow collide with Eric Berry. Here's another matchup of top-flight quarterback against an All-American, future NFL safety. Don't expect many high-impact, Tebow-meets-Berry like crashes between the two since Clausen doesn't run nearly as much as the Florida star. Still, the Irish quarterback and his receivers have to be aware at all times of where Mays is on the field. Clausen's Heisman Trophy hopes -- and Notre Dame's chances at victory -- depend on a productive passing day.
2. Notre Dame's offensive line vs. the USC pass rush: The Trojans share the national lead in sacks, and if the Irish offensive front can't keep Clausen clean, it will be a long night for the home team in South Bend. "If we play like we did last year and get dominated like we did last year, it won't make a darn bit of difference what Jimmy does," head coach Charlie Weis said. USC has a bunch of studs on the defensive line, including Everson Griffen (four sacks) and Nick Perry (six sacks). Notre Dame has to slow them down to have a chance.
3. Joe McKnight vs. the Irish defense: Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley is a true freshman, and Notre Dame will try to bring lots of pressure after him. But Barkley usually isn't asked to win games. The USC offense really goes as the running game goes, specifically McKnight. He's averaging 7.1 yards per carry with six touchdowns. McKnight is also a threat in the passing game. He's the best back the Irish have seen this year, and he can change the game more than anyone else on the USC side.