Here are five big questions going into the game:
1. Can Tommy Rees decipher the Trojan defense?
Southern Cal's defense isn't as vaunted and chock full of future NFL stars like it used to be, but it's still far more talented and much, much faster than anything Rees has seen to this point in his young career. My unfortunate hunch is that the Trojans will expose the face that Rees just doesn't have the chops to take the Irish back into the nation's elite. Monte Kiffin is going to show him a variety of looks and I just don't think he'll be able to handle them.
2. Can the Irish establish the run?
Doing so would relieve a lot of pressure on Rees, but once again we've yet to show that we can do it with any sort of consistency. Southern Cal has a slew of four and five star talent along the defensive line so it'll be a stern test for the Irish offensive line.
3. Can the Irish defense continue its torrid streak and slow down Southern Cal?
The Trojans have serious weapons at their disposal, a lot more than Army and Utah. Diaco has done a fantastic job adjusting over the second half of the season but SC is a whole different animal.
4. Will a hobbled Barkley or a healthy Mustain be effective?
That is until Manti Te'o breaks both of them in half at the 4 minute mark of the second quarter.
5. Will Brian Kelly outcoach Lane Kiffin?
Kiffin provides the perfect face to the ultimate villain. Nothing would get the majority of Notre Dame Nation back in BK's corner like wiping the floor with Kiffin.
The Call: We're just not there yet. Southern Cal is too talented and too many key players are missing from the Notre Dame lineup to pull the upset. Next year will be a different story, but unfortunately we have to deal with one more beatdown.
Southern Cal 31
Notre Dame 13
Prove me wrong Irish.