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Notre Dame

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Associated Press
USC receiver Marqise Lee is expected to play today after missing last week’s game against Arizona with a knee injury.

College football preview: Notre Dame vs. USC

Records: Irish (4-2); Trojans (4-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend

TV: NBC

Radio: 1380 AM, 107.3 FM

On the Web: To watch a video preview for the game, go to “Irish Insights” at www.journalgazette.net

3 matchups to watch

Notre Dame cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell vs. USC receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor: The Irish are ranked 87th in pass defense, giving up 252.2 yards per game, while the Trojans are also ranked 87th in pass offense, gaining 207.7 yards per game. Even though the Trojans’ passing offense isn’t as productive as it has been in the past, and Lee, who is expected to return after missing USC’s 38-31 win over Arizona last week with a knee injury, may not be 100 percent, Jackson and Russell understand they will be challenged by the Trojans’ top receivers. Lee leads USC with 30 receptions for 385 yards, and Agholor has 18 catches for 353 yards. Jackson is the Irish’s fourth-leading tackler with 35, and he has two pass breakups and an interception. Russell is seventh in tackles with 23 and has four pass breakups.

USC’s running game vs. Notre Dame’s rush defense: The Trojans’ top running back, Tre Madden, will likely be limited if he plays at all today. The sophomore, who leads USC with 611 rushing yards and three touchdowns, is dealing with a hamstring injury, and if he is out or limited, it could hurt the Trojans’ passing game as he is third on the team with 13 catches for 198 yards and has a team-high four touchdown catches. But USC has plenty of running back depth, Justin Davis has run for 349 yards and has a team-high six rushing touchdowns, and Silas Redd returned last week from a knee injury that kept him out of the first six games to run for 80 yards on 19 carries against Arizona. Notre Dame’s rush-defense strength is where USC likes to run the most, between the tackles. The Irish are holding teams to 122.3 rushing yards per game, and nose tackle Louis Nix III (20 tackles) and inside linebackers Dan Fox (36 tackles) and Carlo Calabrese (40 tackles) do a good job of keeping teams from being able to run up the middle.

Notre Dame’s running game vs. USC’s rush defense: The Irish got their running game going in the two games before the bye week, gaining 220 rushing yards in a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 28 and 145 rushing yards in a 37-34 win over Arizona State on Oct. 5. George Atkinson III has been the main reason for the Irish’s recent success on the ground, running for 202 yards in the last two games after only 121 rushing yards in the first four games. The Trojans come into tonight’s game with the nation’s No. 15 rush defense, giving up 107.2 yards per game, but that number is misleading. USC held the nation’s worst run offense, Washington State, to 7 rushing yards and Hawaii to 23 rushing yards to help inflate its statistics. USC gave up 261 rushing yards in a 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28 and 145 rushing yards to Arizona last week.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 21

tkrausz@jg.net

– Tony Krausz, The Journal Gazette

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