Notre Dame is one of the three remaining undefeated teams in FBS this season. The Irish are sitting at the No. 3 spot in the BCS and will remain there without a loss from Oregon or Kansas State.
The Irish will finish the year against USC, and it will be the toughest road test to date for this team. The Trojans are built to expose Notre Dame, and they will have a great shot at doing so in Los Angeles on November 24.
The likelihood that all three undefeated teams remain that way through the end of the year is a long shot. Here is why the Trojans will shatter the Irish’s hopes of finishing the season undefeated.
The Trojans have relied on a tandem of backs to carry the ground game this season.
Silas Redd transferred to USC after playing two seasons at Penn State. He has been a consistent runner for the Trojans, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and rushing for nine touchdowns so far in 2012.
Curtis McNeil has added six yards per carry and two touchdowns to the Trojans attack. He also has 497 rushing yards on the year as Redd's backup.
The one-two punch that the Trojans use balances the offense and keeps opposing defenses honest against their high-profile playmakers on the outside. The Irish have played very well against the run all season, but they gave up 172 yards to Ray Graham of Pitt earlier this year.
The Trojans could produce a ton of yards on the ground against the Irish if they follow the Panthers' blueprint laid out just weeks ago.
Matt Barkley may be on the fringe of a Heisman campaign with the Trojans' recent losses, but he is still one of the most elite signal-callers in the country.
He has 33 touchdowns and 2,972 yards on the season so far. By the Notre Dame game he will be over 3,000 yards and close to 40 touchdowns.
The Irish have faced one other elite quarterback this season in Landry Jones. Jones had his strongest performance to date against Notre Dame, throwing for 356 yards in the game.
Notre Dame is now the No. 24 pass defense in the country, but that will drop further against USC. Barkley should finish his final regular season on a high note against the Irish.
Notre Dame is the No. 8 total defense in the country this year, but it has faced very few offensive elites in 2012.
At the end of the year, the Irish will face two of the most talented weapons in the country when they face off against Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Woods has accounted for 10 receiving touchdowns while Lee has snagged 13 of his own this year.
Lee is leading the USC offense with 98 catches and 1,447 yards this year. He is the second-leading receiver in the country, averaging 144.7 yards per game.
Robert Woods is also in the Top 100, averaging 65.3 yards per game.
USC will be the toughest test of the year for Notre Dame, and the Irish may not survive the offensive onslaught the Trojans will bring to the Coliseum.
Notre Dame has been on an amazing undefeated run. The Irish have played strong defensively, only allowing 11.1 points per game. That places them as the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
Offensively, however, Notre Dame is ranked No. 79 in scoring offense, No. 91 in passing yards and No. 33 in rushing yards. This team is struggling to move the football.
The Irish allowed Pitt to score 26 points en route to a near upset in South Bend. What happens when Notre Dame faces an explosive USC offense in L.A. and can’t score?
It has been an amazing run through the 2012 schedule for Notre Dame, but unless the Irish have an amazing offensive resurgence in the last two weeks of November, they won’t be able to keep up with the Trojans.
The Trojans defensive line is on a tear in 2012. USC is the No. 4 team in the country in sacks and tackles for loss. This team is very good at rushing the passer, and it should have a good day against the Irish.
The Trojans have been burned through the air often this year giving up 242 yards a game, but the Irish don’t have a true threat from the quarterback position.
Notre Dame will have to win this game by pushing the ball on the ground. USC is No. 47 against the rush, but if it is able to force 3rd-and-long situations with backfield stops and sacks the Irish will be in trouble.
Notre Dame is not a team that is built for a large deficit comeback. This will be a tough defensive mountain for the Irish to climb in on the 24th.