It’s Notre Dame week and that’s usually enough to get the attention of USC fans, especially when the Irish are undefeated and bringing a physical football team to the Coliseum on Saturday.
But when you add in the reality of what is going on with the Trojans and Clay Helton it makes for an even more interesting scenario.
To say there is a division in how things are being viewed right now for the Trojans is an understatement, with a large segment of fans making it clear that they’ve seen enough from the Helton era and are ready for a change. The fact that the USC athletic department is sending out e-mails promoting the fact that there are tickets remaining for the game this weekend should speak volumes and it’s a sobering thought to think about how many of those seats will be filled instead by Irish fans.
At the same time the fans are expressing their displeasure, there is a steady sound coming from Heritage Hall that change may not be coming, that Helton could be back, likely with some new assistant coaches, but that he will be given the opportunity to right the ship. The athletic department will point to Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly as an example of a coach who had a bad year in 2016, going 4-8, and who brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and just two years later is playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
That’s a hard sell for those USC fans who were hoping for a change to be made this week, to allow for the seniors to play their final game under an interim coach. It doesn’t look like that will happen, and we don’t know what the eventual reality will be next week regarding Helton’s future, but regardless the game will be played on Saturday and it will be the final chance for seniors like Cameron Smith, Marvell Tell and Toa Lobendahn to put on the Cardinal and Gold and run out the Coliseum tunnel.
Know the Opponent – Scouting Notre Dame
SCOUTING NOTRE DAME
*Notre Dame, under ninth-year head coach Brian Kelly, is coming off a 36-3 win over Syracuse in Yankee Stadium last Saturday, its 12th straight win dating to last season, keeping alive its quest for a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
*Junior QB Ian Book (175-of-241, 72.6%, 2,116 yds, 17 TD, 5 int in 2018, plus 71 tcb, 234 yds, 3.3 avg, 4 TD) and senior QB Brandon Wimbush (54-of-102, 52.9%, 719 yds, 4 TD, 6 int in 2018, plus 68 tcb, 256 yds, 3.8 avg, 1 TD) have both gotten starts in 2018. Book is second nationally in completion percentage (72.6%) and seventh in passing efficiency (165.5). Senior RB Dexter Williams (126 tcb, 844 yds, 6.7 avg, 11 TD in 2018, plus 8 rec, 50 yds, 6.2 avg, 1 TD) headlines the rushing attack, while top pass catchers are senior WRs Miles Boykin (51 rec, 730 yds, 14.3 avg, 8 TD in 2018) and Chase Claypool (43 rec, 558 yds, 13.0 avg, 4 TD in 2018), junior WR Chris Finke (40 rec, 461 yds, 11.5 avg, 1 TD in 2018, plus 18 PR, 188 yds, 10.4 avg and 4 tcb, 21 yds, 5.2 avg) and senior TE Alize Mack (33 rec, 334 yds, 10.1 avg, 3 TD in 2018).
*Leaders on a defense that is second nationally in pass efficiency defense (96.2), 15th in scoring defense (17.3) and 20th in total defense (321.4) are senior ILB Te’von Coney (99 tac, 9 for loss, 3.5 sack, 1 int, 3 dfl, 1 FR in 2018), graduate ILB Drue Tranquill (66 tac, 9 for loss, 3.5 sack, 2 dfl in 2018), junior S Alohi Gilman (66 tac, 3 for loss, 2 int, 3 dfl, 1 FF in 2018), junior S Jalen Elliott (59 tac, 1 for loss, 0.5 sack, 4 int, 6 dfl, 1 FF in 2018), junior CB Julian Love (49 tac, 3 for loss, 1 int, 14 dfl, 3 FR in 2018) and senior DT Jerry Tillery (29 tac, 9.5 fo loss, 7 sac, 3 FF, 1 blk in 2018). Love is third nationally in fumbles recovered (3) and 11th in passes defended (1.4).
*Senior PK Justin Yoon (15-of-19 FG, 38-of-40 PAT in 2018) has 57 career field goals, tying the school record (he already is ND’s career points leader, with 358).