Notre Dame Football: Staff Predictions for the Season Finale vs. USC

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 03: Miles Boykin #81 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass for a touchdown over Montre Hartage #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half of a game at Ryan Field on November 3, 2018 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 03: Miles Boykin #81 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass for a touchdown over Montre Hartage #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half of a game at Ryan Field on November 3, 2018 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Notre Dame football hopes to put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season Saturday. Here’s how Slap the Sign writers see the events unfolding.

The magnitude of Saturday’s game is no secret to anyone even remotely associated with Notre Dame football. For the Irish, a win means its first ever chance to play in the College Football Playoff. The Trojans, however, are fighting for bowl eligibility, the ability to play spoiler to an arch rival, and maybe the job of its head coach.

The game has some eerie similarities to Notre Dame’s bout with the Trojans to put the finishing touches on a 12-0 season in 2012. That was the last time the Irish won in the Coliseum. Notre Dame hopes to repeat that history in 2018.

Here is how the Slap the Sign writers see the game playing out:

Carlee North

The Irish look to finish off the season undefeated with a trip to California against a reeling USC team in their way. Because this is such a big rivalry and because Southern Cal will love more than anything to spoil the chances of the Irish, I think this will be closer than people are expecting. Don’t forget there will be a ton of pressure on this Irish team going into Saturday night, too. I still think the defense is just playing way too good right now and the offense will have to score touchdowns in the redzone, which they weren’t able to do much last week, but I think they will when it matters. The Irish pull through and embrace the pressure to cement their spot in the College Football Playoff with a 31-17 victory over rival USC.

Chase Eyrich

USC has a chance to show some promise early in the game. Let’s face it, they have nothing to lose and would love to be the ones to crush Notre Dame’s hopes of the Playoff. But the Trojans have proved that they don’t make great adjustments. Notre Dame’s defense will be able to shake a USC offense that hasn’t really established themselves this season. The Irish run away with this one 34-10.

Connor McJunkin

The Irish have passed every test and challenge thrown at them this year with flying colors. This is a special group that’s 60 minutes away from the College Football Playoff, and they understand what’s at stake.

USC is, for lack of a better term, not good this year. True freshman JT Daniels has struggled all year and the Trojans are in jeopardy of not being bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. Notre Dame’s defense should swarm this USC offense all night and the Book-led Irish offense should put plenty of points on the board.

I see this team answering the final call and taking care of USC early and often in this final business trip. The Irish head to the College Football Playoff 12-0 after a 38-13 win over the Trojans.

Daniel Morrison

It’s a rivalry game, and USC will be scrambling to try and make a bowl game. This could lead to early issues for Notre Dame. However, those issues will not be long-term issues. Notre Dame has more talent and more experience. The Irish defense is playing as well as it has all season. Winning should put Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff, so they should be plenty motivated. Notre Dame 38, USC 10.

J.P. Scott

This is it. The Irish are locked in and know what they need to do. Notre Dame is the superior team in every facet of the game, and the final score will reflect that. Look for at least a half dozen sacks from the Irish D, as Notre Dame rolls 37-10.

Jack Leniart

Here. We. Go. The Irish head to the West Coast to battle for the jeweled shillelagh and a ticket to the College Football Playoff. Yes, USC has had a very disappointing season this year. Yes, their head coach is likely on his way out. Yes, some of the fans and players might be disinterested. However, this is a huge rivalry game being played away from South Bend, and the Trojans have nothing to lose. Because of that, I think this game will be close… for about a half. Here’s the thing, Notre Dame is really freakin good. Sure they have some flaws, but USC is not a team that will take advantage of that. The Trojans will come out playing well on their senior day, but the Irish will prove to be too much on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame 38, USC 17.

Play that Will Smith track. We’re going to Miami.

Nathan Erbach

I see this one playing out similarly to Notre Dame’s win over Florida State. The Irish will get a nice lead early and cruise the rest of the way. USC wants the season to end as much as anyone in the country, and Notre Dames constant pressure on defense and consistent offensive attack will break the hearts of the USC players early on. Off to the College Football Playoff we go. Notre Dame 37, USC 19. 

Paul Walsh

USC never has a shortage of talented players. However, this talent has not gelled throughout the course of the season. The Trojans have struggled on a multiplicity of fronts, and their coach is on the hot seat as a result. The Irish, on the other hand, seem to get better with each passing week. I was at the Syracuse game, and it was even more evident to me how well this team is playing on both sides of the ball. The only thing standing between Notre Dame and its first College Football Playoff berth is one of its biggest rivals. And while this rivalry has offered some classic games over the years, I don’t see this one being close. USC is on the respirator, and Notre Dame has a shot at making history. The Irish will show up in a big way and slay the Trojans on their home turf. Notre Dame wins convincingly, 42-20. College Football Playoff, HERE COME THE IRISH!

Next. Three Bold Predictions for the USC Game. dark

Ben Belden

It’s hard to tell how this game will play out. On one hand, it’s a rivalry. On the other, USC is pretty disorganized and can’t utilize its talent. I think Notre Dame gets out to a fast start and puts the game in cruise control, as they soak up every last second on a regular season for the record books. Notre Dame wins 35-14.