#6 USC (-10.0) 34 #25 NOTRE DAME 20October 28, 2016
Notre Dame actually has a good team this year because their offense is so good, but that attack will have to win the battle against USC's great defense if they're going to stay close in this game, as I don't see the Trojans having any trouble moving the ball and scoring against a worse than average Irish defense.
Notre Dame has allowed 6.0 yards per play this season to a schedule of teams that would average 5.8 yppl against an average team and USC is by far the best defense that the Irish will face this season. In 4 games with quarterback Matt Barkley at the helm (he missed the Washington loss) the Trojans have averaged 7.1 ypps against teams that would allow 5.3 yppl to an average team, so they should have no trouble moving the ball in this game.
Notre Dame's offense has been just as good this season, averaging 7.1 yppl with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback against teams that would allow 5.3 yppl to an average team. However, Clausen was particularly good the first couple of weeks before big play receiver Michael Floyd was injured in week 3. Clausen threw 21 passes to Floyd and those 21 passes results in 358 yards, which is an incredible 17.0 yards per pass attempted. Clausen still has Golden Tate to throw to but the rest of the wide receivers aren't nearly as productive as Floyd was and Clausen's production has slipped without Floyd.
However, I still rate Notre Dame's offense at 1.6 yppl better than average coming into this game. USC's defense, however, is 1.7 yppl better than average, as the Trojans have allowed just 3.7 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team. Those numbers would be even better if I only included the stats of the first team defense, which has been 1.8 yppl better than average. So, as good as Notre Dame's offense is, USC defense is better.
My math model favors USC by 12 points in this game and this is the sort of game in which the Trojans usually play their best. USC only tends to struggle in games as huge favorites against less than prominent teams like Washington, Oregon State and Stanford. But, the Trojans are 24-3 ATS in games when they are not favored by more than 11 points (i.e. the more competitive games that they are likely to take seriously). I'll lean with USC minus the points.
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