USC vs. Notre Dame: Biggest NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in Rivalry Clash

Josh AronsonCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2017

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish nose tackle Louis Nix (1) gestures before a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s matchup between USC and Notre Dame has no national championship implications, but it is still must-see TV. Both USC and Notre Dame consistently have top recruiting classes, which translate into a plethora of NFL talent. While these teams may be struggling in 2013, there are plenty of players to keep an eye on. 

Both USC and Notre Dame are 4-2 and are coming off big wins. USC beat Arizona at home 38-31 while Notre Dame knocked off Arizona State 37-34 at AT&T Stadium. This is one of the best rivalries in college football, so expect a lot of emotion out on the field.   

Let's take a look at the top draft prospects playing Saturday in South Bend.


Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Coming into the season, Marquise Lee was arguably the best wide receiver in the country. Many people believed that as a sophomore, he was better than teammate Robert Woods, who was drafted in the second round in 2013. 

However, Lee's 2013 campaign has been less than stellar so far. Lee suffered a knee injury in USC's blowout loss to Arizona State and hasn't played since. In the five games that Lee has played this season, Lee has caught 30 catches for 385 yards and one touchdown. 

According to Johnny Curren of ESPNLee said Thursday, "I'm good and I had a great day today, I think that I'm coming around pretty good. I think by Saturday afternoon I'll be OK -- 100 percent."

Many scouts believe that Lee's knee injury will cost him to fall into the late first round in May. However, the standout junior wide receiver is a top 10 talent and any team that can land him in the latter half of the first round will be getting a steal. 

Expect Lee to have a monster game against the Fighting Irish Saturday with 10 catches, 145 yards and one score as he tries to re-establish himself as the best receiver in college.


Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish nose tackle Louis Nix (1) and linebacker Jarrett Grace (59) defend in the third quarter at Michigan Stadium. Michigan
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to miss big No.1 clogging up runs in the middle of the Irish defense. Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller has Nix 16th overall on his big board and first among defensive tackle prospects. Nix's strength is stopping the run, but he seems to struggle when rushing the passer. However, any NFL team running a 3-4 scheme will be drooling over his upside.

Nix has had a very solid year so far and his draft stock seems to be at a stand still. He will be tested against USC as the Trojans are averaging 200 yards per game on the ground. The Irish will be relying on Nix to eat up two blockers to free up the linebackers to make plays.

Last week against Arizona State, Nix was a non-factor only recording one tackle against a great running back in Marion Grice. Look for Nix to rebound nicely, recording two tackles for loss and holding the Trojans to under 120 yards on the ground.


Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (7) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadiu
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame defensive end said Thursday that he would be returning to school for his senior season in 2014, per The Observer's Matthew DeFranks. However, that doesn't mean that NFL scouts won't be watching him play Saturday. Before deciding to stay, Tuitt was the second-best defensive end prospect behind South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

Last season, Tuitt finished second in Notre Dame history compiling 12 sacks. Listed at 6’6.5" and 312 pounds, he has a massive body that he maneuvers very well. As we saw last season, he can get after the quarterback, but he is also very effective against the run.

Many, including College Sports Madness' Todd Salem believes he will be a top 10 pick. He runs the risk of injury next season, but if he has another great year, Salem may be right.