With the first College Football Playoff standings coming out October 31, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish earned their biggest win of the season in a 49-14 blowout over the USC Trojans.
USC was its own worst enemy in defeat with three turnovers, including two in the first half that led to two Notre Dame touchdowns. Quarterback Sam Darnold fumbled a botched snap on the Trojans' first play from scrimmage, which was a sign of things to come.
Josh Adams led the way for Notre Dame with 191 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win. The junior running back has now run for at least 100 yards in five of the Irish's first seven games.
Notre Dame already owned one marquee win this season, dominating Michigan State 38-18 in East Lansing on Sept. 23. Saturday's win over USC gives the Irish two victories over teams currently ranked in the Top 20 of the Associated Press poll.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe had some fun at Darnold's expense after that opening turnover:
Ben Volin @BenVolin
Sam Darnold fumbles away the first snap of the game. He’ll be a great fit in Cleveland2017-10-21 23:47:55
The bad news for USC and Darnold, who is still the No. 2 overall NFL draft prospect in 2018, is things didn't get better from there. He finished with 229 passing yards and two touchdowns, and he now has thrown at least one interception in seven of USC's first eight games this season.
Beyond Darnold's issues in 2017, B/R's Matt Miller had questions about USC head coach Clay Helton:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
I do wonder if we were all too quick to anoint Clay Helton last year...2017-10-22 00:34:30
It was easy to get lost in the Trojans' 10-3 record and Rose Bowl win over Penn State in January. Momentum from 2016 has not carried over for the team this season, which includes two losses and two close calls against Texas and Utah.
On the other side, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is having a resurgent season that is going a long way toward silencing his many critics.
Following the Irish's 20-19 loss to Georgia on Sept. 9, ESPN's Paul Finebaum said Kelly shouldn't have remained with the program after last season.
"(Notre Dame) should have fired (Kelly) last year," he said (via Dave Clark of Cincinnati.com). "He's not capable of dealing in the real world. And the sooner, I think, Notre Dame moves him out and puts somebody positive in—someone who can actually coach in big games—the better off that program will be."
In two marquee games against Michigan State and USC since that loss, Notre Dame has won both times and outscored them by a combined 87-32.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports is putting Kelly ahead of a much-loved Big Ten coach after seeing Notre Dame's win over USC:
Dan Wetzel @DanWetzel
Brian Kelly > Jim Harbaugh2017-10-22 00:45:44
Players on the field also deserve their share of credit for making Notre Dame's win look so easy. The defense, which came into the game tied for 14th in points allowed and 48th in yards allowed, gave up just 336 yards.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Notre Dame's defense accomplished something against USC that no team had done since 2013:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
This is the first time USC has been shut out in a half since 2013, when the Trojans were shut out in the 2nd half by ... Notre Dame. https://t.co/VV2q7HusA82017-10-22 01:20:00
On the offensive end, quarterback Brandon Wimbush didn't have a great day passing. This was his fourth game of the season completing less than 50 percent of his passes (9-of-19), though he did make an excellent throw on this touchdown to Kevin Stepherson in the first quarter:
NBC Sports @NBCSports
HANDS 🙌 .@NDFootball leads 14-0. https://t.co/fUqRPz798B2017-10-22 00:11:40
Wimbush was supported by a dominant rushing attack that totaled 377 yards and five touchdowns. He chipped in with 106 yards of his own, but Adams led the way with his dominant performance that included an 84-yard score in the third quarter.
NBC Sports @NBCSports
HE. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY. https://t.co/qLB6xbdoXT2017-10-22 02:12:12
Former Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate appreciated Adams' effort in the win:
Golden Tate @ShowtimeTate
Josh Adams deserves a slow clap!! Retweet to get it started!!! GO IRISH!! ☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️ https://t.co/4WxZVoq0PE2017-10-22 02:21:47
This is the fourth game of the season in which Notre Dame has had at least two 100-yard runners. Wimbush's shortcomings in the passing game can be forgiven when the opposition has no answer for the Irish's potent ground game.
No one knew what to expect from Notre Dame in 2017 coming off a 4-8 record last year. The Irish started this season outside the top 25 in both major polls.
Eight weeks into the season with a 6-1 record, there's no denying Notre Dame is one of the best teams in the country and should be rewarded for its efforts with a prominent place in the inaugural playoff standings.
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