5 Things To Watch

Notre Dame-USC: Five Things to Watch

Notre Dame. USC.
The iconic Los Angeles Coliseum.
A prime-time contest nationally televised by ABC Sports.
All the trappings are there.
The goals for the two teams are easily understood and appreciated.
So here’s what to consider in advance of the Notre Dame matchup with USC:
–Ian Book numbers. Book, the junior Irish quarterback, in his seven starts in 2018 has averaged 24.6 completions per game (never more than 27, never fewer than 22), 34 attempts, 300.4 yards, 2.3 touchdown passes and 0.7 interceptions. So Book versus USC simply needs to play “average” and that will give the Irish a solid opportunity for success.
–Take it in stride. Notre Dame already has played current No. 4 Michigan, plus No. 19 Syracuse, No. 20 Northwestern and No. 24 Pittsburgh. The Irish have played at Virginia Tech, in San Diego and at Yankee Stadium. They’ve played six previous prime-time contests—including on the road at Virginia Tech, Navy (in San Diego) and Northwestern. So there’s no particular reason to think they’ll be fazed by whatever comes with playing in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
–It’s a serious rivalry. Forget all the other storylines. This is Notre Dame-USC. It’s the game that players from both sides talk about and remember decades after they’ve finished playing. That jeweled shillelagh that goes to the winner isn’t just another rivalry trophy. It counts heavily.
–There’s plenty of motivation to go around. This was a noted point a week ago and it stands. USC needs a victory to become bowl eligible. The Irish need a win to finish out an unbeaten regular season and leave themselves prominently in the College Football Playoff conversation. It’s as simple as that.
–Avoid the noise. There’s no reason to misunderstand the goal. There were three set out for 2018 by Irish coach Brian Kelly: Beat Michigan (accomplished), win at home (accomplished in all six home games) and win in November (one game remaining Saturday to accomplish that one). So there’s no reason for the Irish to worry about anything else other than trying to defeat USC.
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is the author, co-author or editor of 12 books (one a New York Times bestseller) and editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.