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Irish Insights

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Notre Dame-USC preview

Notre Dame closes the regular season at USC at 8 tonight with a chance to reach the national championship game on the line.

Here are three matchups to watch at the No. 1 Irish (11-0) play USC:

Notre Dame cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell vs. USC receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods: The Trojans receivers are the most dynamic one-two punch the Irish have faced this season. The 6-foot, 195-pound Lee has caught 107 passes for 1,605 yards with 14 touchdowns, and the 6-1, 190-pound Woods has 66 receptions for 721 yards with 10 touchdowns. Cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell have been impressive in their first season as starters. The 6-foot, 185-pound Jacksonis third on the team in tackles with 55 and has six interceptions. The 5-11, 182-pound Russell has 47 tackles and an interception.

Notre Dame’s pass rush vs. USC’s offensive line: The Irish will want to get after quarterback Max Wittek, who is making his first start in place of Matt Barkley, who is out with a shoulder injury. The Irish have collected 32 sacks with 22 of them coming from starting defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt, an end, Louis Nix III, a nose guard, and Kapron Lewis-Moore, an end. Tuitt leads the group with 12 sacks, and Lewis-Moore and Nix have four and two sacks. USC is giving up 1.4 sacks per game.

Notre Dame running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood vs. USC’s run defense: Riddick and Wood have fueled a rushing attack that averages 200.7 yards. Riddick, who has played in two more games than Wood, leads the Irish with 734 rushing yards and four touchdowns. But Wood, who ran for 150 yards in last week’s win over Wake Forest, isn’t far behind Riddick with 720 rushing yards. Wood also has four touchdowns. The Trojans are giving up 150.5 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 17

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