Not even the most ardent Notre Dame fan — the kind that sees the world through golden-dome glasses — would claim this is some vintage Fighting Irish team.
Quarterback play has been inconsistent by committee. The offensive line is nothing like the normally stout units of the past. Injuries haven’t helped depth or talent.
Yet the Irish are 5-1 heading into their annual rivalry game against USC, which at 3-3 and with an interim coach, is on even harder times.
“Beat SC” is always a rallying cry, though. So too is for Notre Dame, currently ranked 13th nationally, to deliver the kind of successful season that speaks to the health of the program even if it doesn’t result in a playoff bid.
Great programs win even when they don’t have great teams. And with six remaining games against beatable opponents, the imposter Irish have a chance to deliver an 11-1 season and a top-10 finish that will make up for in satisfaction what it lacks in dominance.
They outlasted Florida State in double overtime to win the opener. They’ve won close games against Toledo and Purdue, pulled away from Wisconsin at a Chicago-based party and had a dramatic come-from-behind effort at Virginia Tech.
It’s been a bit of a pacemaker season.
The home loss to No. 2 Cincinnati is the only blemish, and it stings a bit. It also takes the pressure off trying to chase a playoff spot that this team really isn’t ready to handle. With recruiting on an uptick — the Irish have the current No. 1 class per Rivals.com (they won’t finish there, but it’s still good) — the future is bright in part because the present is strong.
Can Brian Kelly’s program, fresh from an off week of rest, practice and self-scouting, begin the charge across the second half of the season by defeating the Trojans. The oddsmakers think so — the Irish are -7 per BetMGM — even though USC has won eight consecutive road games dating back to 2019.
The College Football Enquirer discusses the game, as well as Wake Forest at Army (+3.5), Clemson at Pitt (-3.5), Oregon at UCLA (-2) and Oklahoma State at Iowa State (-7). Plus, the red-hot locks of the week.
Check it out here.