USC vs. Notre Dame Odds, Picks and Predictions: Betting Value on Saturday Night’s Over/Under (Oct. 23)

USC vs. Notre Dame Odds, Picks and Predictions: Betting Value on Saturday Night’s Over/Under (Oct. 23) article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: USC Trojans linebacker Hunter Echols (31).

  • The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans renew their longstanding interconference rivalry at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night.
  • The Irish have underwhelmed on the field but nonetheless exceeded expectations. Meanwhile, the USC program is in disarray due to injuries and coaching instability.
  • Check out our college football betting preview for Notre Dame vs. USC, including updated odds, picks and predictions for Saturday night's game.

USC vs. Notre Dame Odds

Saturday, Oct. 23
7:30 p.m. ET
USC Odds
-105o / -115u
Notre Dame Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Notre Dame and USC first met in 1926, and the matchup has become one of the premier college football rivalries for nearly a century.

With almost two dozen National Championships between the two programs, this game draws interest no matter what the records indicate.

Notre Dame is 5-1 and in the hunt for the College Football Playoff once again. The Irish have a half-dozen games against non-ranked teams to make a case for the committee after just a single loss to Cincinnati.

As for USC, head coach Clay Helton was fired earlier this season, leaving Donte Williams as the interim for a now 3-3 Trojans team. Williams' career has predominately been on the West Coast with various teams, serving as a cornerback coach to a passing game coordinator for the USC offense.

Mike Bohn, USC Athletic Director, stated that Williams would take over as interim coach because of his strong recruiting ties and leadership attributes. Graham Harrell and Todd Orlando still hold the coordinator positions, but there have been changes to the scheme in the wake of Helton's departure.

A win over the Irish would knock Notre Dame out of CFP contention and potentially boost Williams' profile as a head coach.

USC Trojans

Williams has been preparing for the trip to South Bend, pumping Irish band music during practice while changing practice times to prepare the Southern California roster for expected 40-degree temperatures.

The Trojans are coming off a bye week, assisting a number of injured players on both sides of the ball before the trip out east.

USC spent the bye working on fundamentals and technique, specifically for a defense that ranks 105th in tackling and 126th in Finishing Drives. Williams is working to correct a team that is bottom-10 in penalties per game and penalty yards per game.

Of all the advanced statistics dragging on the defensive side of the ball, the pass rush is not one of them. The Trojans own a top-35 rank, led by edge rusher Drake Jackson's 16 total pressures.

Drake Jackson – quick and twitchy

Thought his game against Colorado last weekend was the best version we've seen of him

— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 7, 2021

Kedon Slovis suffered an injury in the trip to Washington State but returned to have his best passing performances of the season against Colorado and Utah before the bye week. In the previous two USC games, Slovis increased his average depth of target from seven yards to 10 with five big-time throws and just two turnover-worthy plays.

Since the firing of Helton, USC has gone from a pass-heavy team in the Air Raid to a deep-threat offense at any down and distance.

Kedon Slovis playing for his draft capital life[

— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) October 2, 2021

The USC offense has become a deep threat on almost any play but has exceeded in scoring opportunities. The Trojans are 10th in the country in Finishing Drives with an average of 4.1 points per trip inside the 40-yard line.

Over half of the third-down targets go to wide receiver Drake London, who has 20 on the season.

While the defense gets back to basics in tackling and fundamentals, the USC offense is generating plenty of air yards in the wake of Helton's firing.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Irish also come off a bye week looking to have better performances after the first half of the season. A 5-1 record is respectable, but three wins by three points apiece over Florida State, Toledo and Virginia Tech have investors skeptical.

There are injuries hampering the team, but head coach Brian Kelly expects tight end Michael Mayer to be a full go against USC. That's great news, as Mayer is second on the team in third-down targets and the remaining tight ends on the depth chart may all be out with injury for the Trojans.

Jack Coan threads the needle to Michael Mayer on 4th down sheesh

— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) October 2, 2021

Jack Coan will remain the starter at quarterback for the Irish, but Kelly made it clear that Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne would see time.

There was mention over the bye week that a plan was put in place for down and distances that benefit Buchner's ability to escape the pocket and Coan's ability to thread the needle in the pocket.

For all the mention of Coan's mobility issues, the quarterback had his best game of the season against Virginia Tech and has committed just one turnover-worthy play on 65 pressured dropbacks this season.

The defense has recovered in the advanced analytics after being torched with explosive plays in the opener against Florida State.

The real question is whether this game is a resume builder for defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to be the next USC head coach. Freeman does not have ties to the West Coast but consistently ranks in the top three of all recruiters in the nation, along with the current USC interim coach.

Edge rusher Isaiah Foskey leads the Irish in pass-rush productivity, a stat that combines sacks, hits, hurries and pressures via PFF.

The Notre Dame defense has improved to 11th in the nation in Rushing Success Rate, but the focus of the USC game will be on coverage and pass rush.

The Irish have held all opponents to below the national average in Success Rate in passing plays but have allowed big plays in key situations with a rank of 61st in defending explosive plays in passing downs.

This may be attributed to the aggressiveness of Freeman's blitz calling.

Notre Dame sends blitz in 41% of snaps out of its base 4-3 formation. That number takes a titanic leap to 63% on second down when the distance is greater than seven yards, the definition of a passing down.

Slovis and the USC offense can expect blitz after any unsuccessful first-down play.

USC vs. Notre Dame Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how USC and Notre Dame match up statistically:

USC Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
Rush Success8011
Line Yards4818
Pass Success2733
Pass Blocking**2959
Big Play3232
Finishing Drives1030
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Notre Dame Offense vs. USC Defense
Rush Success12269
Line Yards12757
Pass Success68127
Pass Blocking**3535
Big Play10749
Finishing Drives91126
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling10517
Middle 812793
SP+ Special Teams3547
Plays per Minute4747
Rush Rate40.4% (124)49.9% (95)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

USC vs. Notre Dame Betting Pick

There are plenty of known variables coming into the South Bend showdown.

The Trojans offense remains pass-heavy, but the depth of target has undergone a rapid increase over the past three games.

The Irish offense has become more efficient in the use of each quarterback depending on down and distance, along with the portion of the game where the pass rush may not be as effective.

One attribute that both teams share is that the defenses are allowing yards, points and explosive plays.

Both USC and Notre Dame are allowing well above the national average in explosive drives by opponents. Both teams are outside the top 115 in defending rush explosiveness, but the passing game of both offenses will dictate the winner.

Freeman sends blitz with just four rushers at a 60% clip and rarely chooses fewer defenders to get to the quarterback. If Notre Dame sends four or five defenders, which has been the case in 80% of blitz attempts, there will be pockets for Slovis to find success.

As for the USC defense, there were many areas to address heading into the bye week. Not only are the Trojans one of the most penalized teams in the nation, but the defense is also bottom -ive in several categories, including Passing Success Rate and Finishing Drives.

The lack of a head coach has shown in "Middle 8" ranks, a stat that looks at point differential the last four minutes of the second quarter and first four minutes of the third quarter. USC ranks 127th in the Middle 8, a sign that clock management and halftime adjustments are not working for the Trojans.

The Action Network projection is Notre Dame -6.5 and a total of 54. No value exists on the market with the Irish favored by a touchdown, but the total is worth consideration.

Despite Freeman's aggressive blitz, Notre Dame's defense is fifth in expected points against the pass and ninth in Standard Downs Success Rate. USC will find passing sowns early and often, an area in whicg Slovis has excelled. The Trojans are 11th in passing downs Success Rate but 122nd in explosiveness.

Look for the Air Raid to take a few series to get rhythm back after the bye week, especially against a Notre Dame defense that does not allow explosive passing.

Conversely, the Irish have no rush explosiveness and will focus on passing to the tight end, as Mayer leads the team in targets with an average of seven yards per pass.

Notre Dame is 91st in Offensive Finishing Drives and 10th in Defensive Finishing Drives, suggesting the under has value down to key numbers of 58 and 55.

Pick: Under 58 or Better | 1H Under 28.5 or Better

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