College Football Picks Week 8: USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

USC Trojans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday, 10/22/11, 7:30 PM EST, TV:  NBC
Opening Point Spread:  Notre Dame -9
Current Betting Line:  Notre Dame -9.5
Opening Total:  57.5
Current Total:  57
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Matt Barkley USC Trojans Football
The USC Trojans are big road underdogs against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday

USC takes a break from Pac-12 Conference play and travels to Notre Dame for the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.  The Trojans will be playing their first night game at Notre Dame Stadium and the latest start time of any game in the rivalry.  The program has won its last four visits to South Bend, while also winning a school-record 13 consecutive non-conference road games.  USC is 13-6 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points, while the ‘under’ is 11-8 in those contests.

The Trojans are led by the talented pass-catch duo of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods.  USC head coach Lane Kiffin knows his team is up against it.  “They very easily could be undefeated and be a top-five team in the country,” he stated this week.  “One or two players here, they’d be undefeated.”  Defensively, the team will be challenged in facing a hurry-up spread of Notre Dame, as the unit struggled against Arizona State and Arizona in giving up a combined 84 points.

Notre Dame is 4-2 and comes in on a four-game winning streak, including consecutive spread victories over Purdue and Air Force.  The Fighting Irish have really gotten their ground game going, rushing for 735 yards in the last three games, the most for the program since a stretch in 2003.  Second-year head coach Brian Kelly has his team focused on reaching a BCS game, which would likely mean winning every remaining game on the schedule.  “Let’s get into the top 14 in the country,” he stated in practice this week.  Notre Dame is 6-14 ATS as favorites and the ‘under’ is 14-8 over that span.

The Fighting Irish are seventh in the nation in averaging 6.0 yards per carry, while the offense has scored on 10 straight trips inside the red zone, including nine touchdowns.  Notre Dame’s offensive line has been very good in allowing just five sacks this season, allowing quarterback Tommy Rees to throw a touchdown pass in each of his nine career starts.  Turnovers plagued the team early this season, but that hasn’t been the case in the last two games, failing to not commit a miscue in consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 2009.  Notre Dame has tallied a 48-16-1 record against Pac-12 Conference opponents at home.

Bettors will likely back the Trojans due to their 6-0 ATS mark as a road underdog of 3.5 to 10 points, while the Fighting Irish are 10-3 ATS following a bye week.

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