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Texas A&M Football

Around CFB: Clarity about No. 10 USC's contender status is forthcoming

October 10, 2023
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As usual, there’s been tons of hype for USC as a football national championship contender.

We learn this weekend how much hope there is.

If No. 10 USC (6-0) can win at No. 21 Notre Dame (5-2), then the hype is for real.

For now, we don’t know if USC is.

The unbeaten record indicates the Trojans are for real. So does the top-10 ranking. Statistics do, too. USC leads the nation in scoring.

But the schedule leaves doubts. Frankly, at the midway point of the season, USC may be the most unknown team in the country.

The Trojans’ six opponents are a combined 10-24. Five rank between 88th and 122nd in the nation in points allowed.

USC’s only opponents with more than one win are Colorado and Arizona. The Trojans held off 4-2 Colorado, 48-41. They escaped 3-3 Arizona in triple overtime, 43-41.

By the way, Arizona also lost in overtime to SEC West bottom-feeder Mississippi State.

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In a classic rivalry, Notre Dame holds a 47-37-5 series lead, but it was USC that prevailed last year, 38-27.

None of SEC’s opponents are strong defensively. Only Colorado and Arizona are offensively adept.

That raises the question of what will happen when USC faces an opponent with a good offense and stout defense.

They will find out against Notre Dame.

The Irish average a respectable 34.1 points, though that figure is skewed by a 42-3 win over Navy and a 56-3 victory over Tennessee State.

However, they did manage 45 against North Carolina State.

That really doesn’t matter, though. As scores suggest, coach Lincoln Riley’s offense is more than content to outscore opponents in shootouts.

The bigger question is whether the Trojans can score in bunches on Notre Dame, which has held five opponents to 17 points or less?

Riley knows the Trojans are facing their greatest challenge so far.

“They’re one of the older defenses that we’ll play,” he said on Monday. “Seniors all over the place. Lots of experience. Few different guys on the front. They graduated a couple of really good players there. Still playing at a high level.”

Few would question that. Rather, the Trojan offense must prove it can play at a high level against a high-level defense.

Heisman Watch (If my ballot was due today)

1. Michael Penix, Washington, QB: The Huskies were idle last week, but Penix has a great chance to add to his Heisman candidacy this week against No. 8 Oregon. Penix leads the nation in passing and total offense. He has completed 74.7 percent of his passes for 1,999 yards and 16 touchdowns.

2. Jayden Daniels, LSU, QB: The LSU quarterback has been on a tear of late. Last week, in a come-from-behind win over Missouri, he passed for 259 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 130 yards and another score. He now ranks second in the nation in total offense. Overall, Daniels has passed for 1,969 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has rushed for 422 yards and four touchdowns.

3. Caleb Williams, USC, QB: He boosted his Heisman resume more with his legs than his arm in a 43-41 overtime win over Arizona. Williams rushed for 41 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He also passed for 205 yards and a touchdown. Williams is ranked 11th in the nation in total offense. He has passed for 1,808 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 124 yards and six scores.

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Travis is seeking to become the fourth Seminole to win the Heisman.

4. Jordan Travis, Florida State, QB: Gaudy statistics weren’t needed from Travis to post a 39-17 victory over Virginia Tech. He passed for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the win. That raised his season passing totals to 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns. His candidacy is still boosted by leading the Seminoles to victories over LSU and Clemson.

5. Drake Maye, North Carolina, QB: The Tar Heel star is back among the top five. Maye is third in the nation in total offense. He has led North Carolina to an unbeaten record by passing for 1,629 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing for 174 yards and four touchdowns.

Predicted Playoff Participants

1. Georgia: The unbeaten Bulldogs reminded everyone they’re top dogs with a 51-13 blasting of Kentucky.

2. Michigan: The Wolverines have scored at least 30 points in every game. They’ve not allowed more than 10.

3. Florida State: The unbeaten Seminoles only face two more ranked opponents this season. Both No. 17 Duke and No. 25 Miami go to Tallahassee.

4. Oregon: The unbeaten Ducks face unbeaten Washington this weekend. The winner — I’m guessing Oregon —has an inside track at the playoffs though USC looms on both their schedules.

Games to Watch

No. 8 Oregon at No. 7 Washington: Not everyone is aware, but this is a nasty regional rivalry. This is the first time in the 123-year series that the Ducks and Huskies clash as top-10 teams.

No. 10 USC at No. 21 Notre Dame: Classic rivalry is a classic matchup of great offense vs. great defense. USC leads the nation in scoring. Notre Dame is 15th in the nation in total defense. On the other side, Notre Dame averages a respectable 34.1 points, while USC has allowed 41 points in each of its last two games.

No. 25 Miami at No. 12 North Carolina: The Hurricanes don’t know to take a knee. They don’t figure to take the Heels.

No. 18 UCLA at No. 15 Oregon State: Notice how every year a “surprise” team surfaces and becomes a championship contender? The winner could be that team.

Missouri at No. 24 Kentucky: Surprisingly, this game may decide second place in the SEC East division.

Discussion from...

Around CFB: Clarity about No. 10 USC's contender status is forthcoming

2,032 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by Lake08
Aggie2
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What's so special about Notre Dame besides their history. Louisville really showed them up.
Lake08
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Is this The Herd? All he talks about is tu and USC.
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