Thursday, November 23, 2006

Notre Dame Football 2006
Issue 12: USC

USC Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

23 Chauncey Washington bears the load for the USC ground game, but he shouldn't be considered a workhorse. He is strong at 6'1, 220, but he averages only 14 carries and 70 yards per game. Backing up Washington is 25 CJ Gable, who has averaged 6 carries and 25 yards per game. Washington and Gable will have to work together to make up for 26 Emmanuel Moody's producted. The injured Moody had averaged 9 carries and 50 yards per game. Washington leads the team with 8 rushing touchdowns, so look for him in the end zone. USC has a stable of running backs, and Pete Carroll has tried his best to keep all happy. 21 Allen Bradford and 13 Stafon Johnson average two carries per game. Fullback 37 Ryan Powdrell, receiver Vidal Hazelton, and return man/tailback Desmon Reed average one carry per game. Looking at Hazelton and Reed's numbers, I'd say that the Irish defense needs to be ready for some razzle dazzle. The defense probably doesn't have to worry about QB 10 John David Booty's legs, as he's netted -41 yards on the year.
Notre Dame's run defense has been less than spectacular, giving up 126.8 yards per game on the ground. Maurice Crum leads the team with 83 tackles, including 9.5 stops for a loss.

ND Rush Offense vs. USC Rush Defense

Darius Walker is averaging 20 carries and 99 yards per game. However, those numbers are skewed by great games against weak teams and so-so games against good teams. However, those performances against good teams are the result of many factors, not just Walker's running ability. James Aldridge has established himself as Walker's backup. Aldridge is averaging 6-7 carries and 27 yards per game. However, against the Trojans, Charlie Weis may choose to go to the veteran Travis Thomas, who had a TD against USC last year.
The Trojans are giving up 92 yards per game on the ground. Linebackers 55 Keith Rivers and 58 Rey Maualuga lead the team with 67 and 66 tackles respectively. Rivers, Maualuga, and 10 Brian Cushing - a familiar name, I'm sure - have combined for 16.5 tackles for a loss on a squad that has made 60 total stops in the backfield.

USC Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

A new year, a new quarterback for USC, and the numbers are still impressive. On average, 10 John David Booty completes 20 of 32 passes for 242 yards and 2 TDs. He's thrown 6 interceptions over the course of the season. 2 Steve Smith is the team's leading receiver with 55 catches and 8 touchdowns. 8 Dwayne Jarrett missed a game, but he's not far behind Smith with 48 catches and 7 TDs. Smith is averaging 87 yards per game and Jarrett 68. The number 3 receiver is wideout 1 Patrick Turner, who is averaging 3 catches and 25 yards per game. Tight end 83 Fred Davis averages 2-3 catches and 21 yards per game. Receiver 82 Chris McFoy will return from an injury. In 4 games, McFoy had 10 catches for 99 yards. Tailback Chauncey Washington is averaging 1 catch and 9 yards per game.
Notre Dame is holding opponents to 186 passing yards per game. Terrail Lambert leads the team with 3 interceptions, but Chinedum Ndukwe and Mike Richardson are right behind with 2. The Irish have gotten decent production out of their safeties, as Ndukwe (82) and Zbikowski (64) are second and third on the team in tackles. The defensive linemen aren't too far behind. Derek Landri has 62 tackles, 15 for a loss, including 7 sacks. Trevor Laws has 57, 8.5, and 3.5, while Victor Abiamiri has 42, 14.5, and 10.

ND Pass Offense vs. USC Pass Defense

Booty's numbers look very good, until you put them next to Brady Quinn's. Quinn's average day consists of completing 23 of 35 passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs. Once again, Quinn's primary target is Jeff Samardzija, who has 64 catches, 879 yards, and 10 TDs on the year. He's averaging 80 yards per game. Rhema McKnight has 58 catches for 776 yards and leads the team with 14 touchdowns. Darius Walker has 53 catches for 361 yards. Without John Carlson's 46 catches and 621 yards, another receiver will have to step up. David Grimes has made a living on out routes over the past few weeks, to the tune of 23 catches and 278 yards. But Carlson's speciality was owning the seams. Were Grimes' out routes for show, meaning he'll be the option over the middle this Saturday? Or will that middle option be Marcus Freeman or one of the freshman tight ends?
Playing in the Pac-10, USC is holding opposing passers to 196 yards per game. Linebacker 42 Dallas Sartz and defensive end 96 Lawrence Jackson are tied for the team lead with 4 sacks, so look for both Irish tackles to be busy. 29 Taylor Mays, a safety, leads the team with 3 picks, while corner 28 Terrell Thomas has 2.

Special Teams

Junior 19 Mario Danelo has made 12 of 13 field goals on the year, after making 11 of 12 last season. His long is 44 yards. Fullback/safety 14 David Buehler was called upon for a 49 yard field goal try last week, and he converted. Carl Gioia has converted only 7 of 11 field goals, but he's 7 of 8 from 40 yards or less. And it's not Gioia's fault that Ty Willingham didn't leave the team with any scholarship place kickers.
44 Greg Woidneck is the Trojans punter. Woidneck is averaging 3.5 punts per game and 38.8 yards per punt, with a long of 59. Geoff Price has continued to boom punts. Price is averaging 45.7 yards per kick, with a long of 62.
CJ Gable is USC's primary kick returner. Gable is averaging 27.6 yards per return with a long of 55. As the kickoff specialist, Ryan Burkhart is averaging 59.2 yards per kick, with 8 of 42 kicks going for touchbacks. Notre Dame's special teams are giving up 19.9 yards per kick return, giving opponents an average start on the 25.
David Grimes and George West return kicks for the Irish. While he hasn't broken a "huge" return (his long is 50), David Grimes does have an impressive 26.6 yard average. George West is averaging 20.3 yards per return with a long of 33. 17 Troy Van Blarcom is USC's kickoff specialist. He's averaging 62.7 yards per kick, and 35 of 59 kicks have been touchbacks. USC is giving up 18.6 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 21.
Desmond Reed is back as USC's punt returner. He's averaging a mere 3.9 yards per return with a long of 11. The Irish are giving up a mediocre 11 yards per punt return.
Tom Zbikowski returns punts for the Irish. There's no need to remind everyone what he did last year against USC. Zbikowski is averaging 9 yards per return, with a 52-yards touchdown being his long. USC's punt coverage team is surrendering 9.1 yards per return.

Look for a big game from Quinn, McKnight, Freeman, Ryan Harris and the offensive line, Landri and the defensive line, Richardson.

ND 31, USC 27: McKnight, Samardzija, Travis Thomas, one of the freshman tight ends, and Gioia drills one. Beat SC!