The USC Trojans (3-3, 2-3 in Pac-12) reconnect with the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1) for their annual meeting after skipping last year due to the COVID-altered season. USC-Notre Dame kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET in Notre Dame Stadium and airs on NBC.
USC fired former head coach Clay Helton after an embarrassing 42-28 home loss to the Stanford Cardinal in Week 2. The Trojans have split their last four games 2-2 overall and against the spread (ATS).
USC’s latest outing was a 42-26 loss to the Utah Utes as 2.5-point home favorites on Oct. 9. Trojans junior QB Kedon Slovis has regressed this season. Slovis’s current completion percentage, TD: INT ratio, yards per pass attempt, and passer efficiency rating are his worst marks in three years as a starter.
Notre Dame is quietly 5-1, with its only loss coming against the No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats on Oct. 2. The Fighting Irish responded with a 31-29 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies as 1-point road underdogs in Week 6 before their bye week.
Notre Dame rolled a Purdue Boilermakers team 27-13 on Sept. 18 that beat a then-No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes last week and crushed the Wisconsin Badgers on a neutral field the following week.
- Opening Line: Notre Dame -4
- Current Line: Notre Dame -7
- Over/Under: 58
Notre Dame is 7-3 overall and 5-5 ATS vs. USC since head coach Brian Kelly was hired in 2010. The Fighting Irish has won three in a row in the head-to-head series, but the Trojans have covered three of their last four meetings.
Since 2010, Notre Dame is just 29-33-2 ATS as a home favorite but 18-13 ATS when playing with a rest disadvantage. Also, the Fighting Irish are 14-12 ATS following a bye week in the Kelly era.
Over Slovis’s three years as a starter, USC is 7-4 ATS with a plus-5.2 spread differential on the road and 3-3 ATS vs. ranked teams with a minus-2.8 spread differential.
Heavy pro-Notre Dame action is coming early and often. Nearly 90% of the cash wagered for this game is on the Fighting Irish (according to Pregame.com), which has Notre Dame to move up to a 7-point favorite on most sportsbooks.
The total has a sharp line movement toward the Over. Pregame.com reports that more than 95% of the money is on the Over at publishing. This one-sided action has caused oddsmakers to move the total up from the 53.5-point opener.
Notre Dame is the right side in this game, but we’re getting to the party late. But, all the pro-Fighting Irish action has steamed them up to nearly a TD-favorite, which has dried up their value.
However, I’ll take a contrarian angle and bet we get a low-scoring USC-Notre Dame game. Both teams are 4-2 O/U, and a vast majority of the betting market is backing the Over. My problem with the Over is that Notre Dame’s offense is terrible and USC’s offense is one-dimensional.
For instance, Notre Dame’s offense ranks 114th in non-garbage time Havoc rate and has the sixth-worst line yards per snap. This would explain Notre Dame’s sub-5.0 yards per play average and 107th-ranked non-garbage time offensive predicted points added (PPA).
On the other hand, USC has the 123rd-ranked rushing rate in the country, and Notre Dame’s defense allows just 3.7 yards per rush. Furthermore, Slovis has been inconsistent for the Trojans all year, and the Fighting Irish’s defense has the 14th-best opponent passer efficiency rating. USC’s offense is 117th in explosive play rate, and Notre Dame’s defense is 36th in explosive play rate.
Neither team is good at converting on 3rd down, and both play superb 3rd-down defense. Also, Notre Dame is 29-35 O/U as a home favorite and 10-16 O/U following a bye week since Kelly took over.
PICK: UNDER 58 (-110 on BetMGM)
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