USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Date and Time: Saturday, October 21, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
Opening College Football Odds: Notre Dame -3.5
USC vs. Notre Dame TV Coverage: NBC
The whole Pac-12 is going to be rooting like heck for USC. The conference as a whole doesn't have a great win against a non-conference opponent, and if the Men of Troy get dumped here in South Bend, it could be impossible for any team in a league where everyone has at least one loss to reach the College Football Playoff without a slew of chaos.
The Trojans don't need the weight of the whole conference on their shoulders; they're going a good enough job heaping pressure on themselves virtually every week.
Sam Darnold continues to have various problems every week. The good news is that he finally has a game in which he wasn't picked off. The bad news is that he only completed 54 percent of his passes in a 28-27 win over Utah last weekend. The Utes should have never been able to compete at the Coliseum, but due to the fact that Darnold was consistently off with his receivers, that game was a two-point conversion away from ending in a stunning upset.
Should Notre Dame lose this game, it would have been beaten by a pair of top 10 teams. The home loss to Georgia still feels sort of inexcusable even though the Dawgs would firmly be in the College Football Playoff if it started today. That was Jake Fromm's first career start and was a game that was always there for the taking.
A second loss here to USC probably wouldn't be forgiven even though the Irish consistently have one of the toughest schedules in America every year.
We really don't talk about Brandon Wimbush and his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy often enough.
Wimbush sat out of last week's win over North Carolina with a foot injury, but he is expected back in this game. He is completing just 52.3 percent of his passes, but he has a total of 14 touchdowns. Without Wimbush, the Golden Domers would be nothing this year. Josh Adams doesn't average nine yards per carry without Wimbush's ability to hold linebackers in place on option plays, nor do Dexter Williams nor Deon McIntosh put up suitable numbers as reserves.
Wimbush is averaging 5.9 yards per carry this year, and he's arguably one of the three or four most dangerous quarterbacks in the nation when he's outside of the pocket.
USC vs. Notre Dame Free Picks
The Pac-12 is trash this year, and Notre Dame is about to prove it. Wimbush is back, and the rest of this ground attack is going to be virtually impossible to stop.
The one mistake the Fighting Irish made against Georgia is that they let themselves get beaten. They committed some horribly untimely penalties in that loss and couldn't figure out how to score when they needed to the most. They're a little bit older and wiser now, and if they can learn from their mistakes, they can win this game.
For as talented as Darnold is – and we'd still make him the No. 1 choice in the NFL Draft right now if we had the pick and needed a quarterback – he's just making too many mistakes to be justified as such a short underdog in this game. We think the college football sportsbooks made a big mistake with this spread that begs to be exploited.
College Football ATS Pick: Notre Dame -3.5 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Notre Dame 31, USC 17