Keep an eye on these guys when Notre Dame visits Los Angeles for USC game
No. 13 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-3)
(3) LOGAN DIGGS
Can the sophomore from LA (Boutte, Louisiana) deliver in LA (Los Angeles)?
Diggs has taken his production to another level over the last month. As the season neared the midway point, he’d still never had a 100-yard rushing game. When would he get one? Could he get one? Diggs has since had three in the last five games, including Saturday’s snow-bowl offering of 122 yards and a score against Boston College.
The recent run of quality carries gives Diggs a team-high 140 this season for 698 yards (second). He’s still averaging only 69.8 yards per game, but it just feels like he’s finding his footing.
Diggs also has proven to do it against elite defenses. If he can go for 114 yards on 17 carries against Clemson the way he did earlier this month, certainly he can do it against a USC defense that ranks 68th nationally (148.3 ypg.) against the run.
Like in that Clemson game, this one will hinge on Notre Dame’s ability to run the ball. Diggs and the Irish responded that night in South Bend. Can they repeat that effort at night in SoCal?
This one was a day and a game to remember for the Irish seniors who kept it all on track
Analysis: Takeaways have (finally) started to come in bunches for Notre Dame
(28) TARIQ BRACY
Watching film of the Irish defense, opposing offensive coordinators probably have seen enough from freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison, who has a team-high five interceptions. The rest of the roster has four.
Morrison was challenged against Clemson, and responded with two interceptions, including a pick six. He was challenged against Boston College and responded with three takeaways.
Might be time to look the other way. That should be in the direction of cornerback Cam Hart who’s had a quiet season. Hart is listed as the starter, but he's questionable after a shoulder injury against Boston College. TaRiq Bracy is next up on the depth chart. Like Hart, he's had an OK kind of a season − 31 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry, one pass break up and one interception. That was a big one — in a big game — against a ranked opponent.
First play of the game against Brigham Young, Bracy notched the team's first takeaway in 2022. It set the tone for the rest of the night. Another early play like that could come in handy for an Irish defense that might be swimming upstream most of Saturday.
No. 5 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS (10-1)
(49) TULI TUIPULOTU
Tuipulotu wears a sweatband on his right wrist with the plays and calls of the Trojan defense, but he could/should just chuck that away. He doesn’t need a call or a formation or a scheme to do what he does — wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
Notre Dame has seen its share of elite interior linemen on opposing defenses this season, but it’s likely not seen someone like the 6-foot-4, 290-pound junior from Hawthorne, California.
Tuipulotu is only sixth on the team in tackles (38.0), but he does so much more. Like his team-high 19 tackles for loss for 95 yards, which leads the team and ranks fourth in the nation. The next closest defender is at 7.5 for 54. He also knows how to get to the quarterback with a team-high 11.5 sacks for 77 yards, which also tops the Trojans and is third nationally. Next best on Troy is five sacks for 45 yards. For good defensive measure, Tuipulotu also has three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and a team-high two forced fumbles. Yeah, he’s pretty good.
(13) CALEB WILLIAMS
Notre Dame fans have seen this scene before — a USC quarterback picks up late-season Heisman Trophy steam then seals a trip to New York — and the award — with a big game against Notre Dame (see Palmer, Carson in 2002).
Williams is on that same path. The sophomore has garnered some serious Heisman attention/mention of late for what he’s doing. Over the last five games, Williams has accounted for 438, 425, 398, 264 and 503 total yards. He threw for 470 yards in Saturday’s shootout win over crosstown rival UCLA. He’s thrown for 19 touchdowns in the last five games. Notre Dame has 19 touchdown passes all season.
The numbers for the 6-1, 215-pound Williams are get-out-of-here goofy. Through 11 games, he has 3,796 yards of total offense (3,480 pass, 316 rush). That’s fourth in the nation. It's also only 388 yards fewer than the entire Notre Dame offense (4,184). He’s thrown 33 touchdowns to three interceptions. He's completed 64.9 percent of his passes. Based on what he did Saturday, he’s in one of those rare zones that cannot be compromised.
A trip to New York City beckons in this one. Watch Williams answer.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.