Notre Dame football: Keys to the game
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has brought cookies and a smile back to the Trojans. The veteran coach, who has taken over the Southern Cal helm after Lane Kiffin was fired, has made an effort to inject fun and a more personable touch into a program lacking both. Will it be enough to keep a team that once was struggling from imploding?
One Southern Cal athlete who will be worth watching is running back Tre Madden. Not only does he average 102 rushing yards a game, but the 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore has also caught 13 passes for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns. That sort of production will challenge Notre Dame linebackers to try to contain Madden's effectiveness.
Notre Dame's offensive line will be tested. The Trojans, led by Devon Kennard, George Uko, and Morgan Breslin (all with four sacks) and Leonard Williams (3.5), have sacked the opposing quarterback 19 times this season. The Irish offensive line has yielded just four sacks all season. Which unit that is able to come up with the edge could go a long way toward determining the outcome.
If there's one statistic that could make a difference it could be third-down conversions. USC has converted on just 31 percent (24 of 77) of its third-down tries this season. The Notre Dame defense is allowing 41 percent (36 of 88). The Trojans should have receivers Marqise Lee (who missed the Arizona game with a sprained knee) and Nelson Agholar as weapons to help on those critical plays.
Through six games, Notre Dame running back Amir Carlisle (38 carries, 178 yards) has been relatively average. How will playing against the team with which he started his collegiate career help to jump-start the intensity and rekindle the drive necessary to make an impact? If it's ever going to happen, this would be the time.