by Mike Coffey
Tanned, rested and ready after my week off, I’m storming into Rivalry Week armed with five … er, three questions for Frank Vitovich over at UHND, and his responses comprise the remainder of this article. I vented my Rivalry Rage answering questions from Irish Insider’s Keith Arnold, so check the responses out there. Be sure also to read the other conversations at Strong and True and Her Loyal Sons, and doff your hat at the retirement of the Subway Domer, who orchestrated this gabfest.
On the one hand, SC has a critical lack of depth on its defensive line, so a strong running game would tax them late in the game. On the other, their secondary has been an obvious weakness all season, with even mediocre teams like Arizona torching them for decent passing yardage. Which way do you think Brian Kelly’s game plan will go?
In an ideal world we would run early to open up the play action game to really exploit that secondary. Unfortunately we haven’t had much success running early in games and I fully expect USC to stack the line and make Tommy Rees beat them and why wouldn’t they? The last time they saw Tommy Rees he was unable to do much of anything against them in 2011 and I’m sure they saw what Oklahoma was able to do to him in the first quarter a few weeks ago. Rees is going to have to hit a couple of passes early in the game similar to what he did against Arizona State two weeks ago to get the offense going.
Which of the players SC potentially will get back from injury for this game do you believe will be the most beneficial for them?
Marqise Lee should have Notre Dame fans worried this weekend. Lee is one of the best receivers in the country and if he is able to go this weekend, the USC offense is going to have an opportunity to make some big plays on the Irish. Lesser receivers have given the Irish secondary big problems this year – especially when the Notre Dame pass rush has failed to generate much pressure on the opposing quarterback. We finally saw the pass rush from 2012 two weeks ago in Dallas with Prince Shembo leading the way for Notre Dame. If they are able to build on that success and continue to generate that type of pressure, Lee’s impact on the game – if he plays – could be limited somewhat, but he is still going to make some plays if he suits up.
Ed Orgeron seems to have the Trojans on an emotional high. How much effect, if any, do you believe that will have on the outcome of the game?
USC almost always seems more pumped to play the Irish than vice versa in South Bend recently outside of maybe 2005 and I fully expect Orgeron to have his team riding that emotional wave when they arrive in the stadium on Saturday night. How long he is able to keep them riding that wave is the big question though. If USC comes out and hits a few plays early things could spiral out of control quickly for the Irish. On the flip side, if Notre Dame is the one making plays early, I can see that emotional wave crash down pretty quickly for USC given the way their season is going.