No. 6 USC Strengthens Case For College Football Playoff With Statement Win Over No. 15 Notre Dame

USC proved that this season's remarkable turnaround was not an aberration, defeating the No. 15 ranked Fighting Irish 38-27 in front of a sold out crowd of 72,613 at the LA Memorial Coliseum.


USC proved that this season's remarkable turnaround was not an aberration, defeating the No. 15 ranked Fighting Irish 38-27 in front of a sold out crowd of 72,613 at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

The statement win over their rivals from South Bend, not only strengthens their case for the College Football Playoff, but puts the entirety of the country on notice. USC is back!

No. 3 USC lost the last four meetings against Notre Dame and had not won since 2016. The Irish still have the edge overall in the nearly 100-year rivalry, with 48 wins to the Trojans 37 (and five ties).

After allowing 45 points to crosstown rival UCLA at the Rose Bowl last week, the Trojans defense held Notre Dame to 27 points. Earlier in the week the College Football Playoff Committee said they ranked two-loss LSU over USC because of the performance of the defense.

"There's been periods where you could criticize any part of our team, but there's also been moments of greatness," said USC head coach Lincoln Riley about the criticism his defense has gotten over the course of the season. "The reality is we wouldn't be sitting here 11-1 without our defense. Everybody remembers the previous week or what happened, but there's a lot that goes into a season and our defense has made some big time plays in some big time moments."

USC's Heisman Trophy contender quarterback, Caleb Williams, threw for 232 yards, rushed for 35 yards and had four total touchdowns.

USC running back Austin Jones ran for 154 yards and receiver Jordan Addison had three catches for 45 yards.


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Williams will have one more opportunity to solidify his Heisman resume next Friday night in the Pac 12 Championship Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but if Saturday's performance by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in their 45-23 loss to Michigan was an indicator, the award is Williams to lose.

"We got a short week and whoever we have we're coming for," said Williams about the Heisman hype, and if he pays attention to it. "That's our next one. We have goals in mind that we want to reach."

USC's victory, coupled with the losses of No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 LSU, should move the Trojans into fourth when the College Football Rankings come out on Tuesday.

The tough-nosed clash of two college football titans delivered on all the pregame hype and the fierce rivalry. The stakes and enmity between the two had not been this high in over decade. In fact, Saturday's clash at the Coliseum was the first time the two rivals were both ranked since 2017 when USC was No. 11 and Notre Dame No. 13.

This meeting, however, had national championship implications with a multitude of storylines.

It was a matchup of rookie head coaches in USC's Lincoln Riley, who tied the school record with 11 wins for a first-year coach, and Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman.

Riley has returned USC to glory after a tumultuous era under his predecessor Clay Helton. The Trojans finished 4-8 last season and missed a bowl game. Nobody could ever expected they would be back in contention for the national title less than a year later.

"I don't believe in putting limits in what you can accomplish," said Riley, on whether or not he was surprised by the Trojans' turnaround. "I've stood right by what I told you our expectations are since Day 1. A lot of people thought I was crazy, but people within the walls knew what we were about and what we were building."

By comparison, the Irish seemingly always were in contention for the national title under their previous head coach Brian Kelly. But Kelly left for LSU, and Freeman's Fighting Irish struggled out of the gate with back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Marshall to start the season. But Notre Dame had won eight of their last nine games and had hopes of entering the Top 10 and playing in a marquee bowl game.

And finally, both teams were playing for the right to hang another medallion on the infamous Jeweled Shillelagh, the trophy awarded to the winner of the rivalry game.

USC scored on it's opening possession when Williams found receiver Tajh Washington, who dodged a defender and found the end zone, to cap off an eight-play, 75-yard drive. By the end of the first quarter, USC led 10-0.

Entering the game, there were plenty of questions regarding the Trojans' defense and could they stop the No. 1 graded tight-end in the country in Notre Dame's Michael Mayer.

The last time USC faced an elite tight-end was in their 43-42 loss to Utah. Utes' tight-end Dalton Kincaid scored the Trojans for 234 yards and a touchdown on 16 receptions.

Mayer had similar success for the Fighting Irish, catching eight passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams put the Trojans back up by 10 just before the half when he scampered between the tackles for a five-yard touchdown run that put USC up 17-7 heading into half time. The run gave Williams the single-season record for most rushing yards by a USC quarterback in school history.

Notre Dame marched down the field on their first possession of the second half, but quarterback Drew Pyne fumbled on the Trojans 23-yard line, stopping the drive and giving USC the ball back.

On the ensuing drive, Trojans' running back Ralek Brown ran untouched into the end zone for a five-yard rushing touchdown that gave USC their biggest lead of the game 24-7.

But Pyne answered within minutes, finding Deion Colzie for a 23-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead back to 10 at 24-14.

Williams put an exclamation point on his Heisman case on the Trojans' next drive. First his sorcery was on full display with a 19-yard touchdown drive that saw him evade multiple tacklers for a crucial first down deep into Notre Dame territory. All of Williams talents were on display two plays later when he spun out of a sack and ran for a three-yard touchdown, his second of the game.

He completed the hat-trick on the ground with his third rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. The touchdown was also his 44th on the season, a new school record.

As the Coliseum crowd chanted "Heisman! Heisman! Heisman!" Williams struck the pose in the end zone. He had just completed one of the best regular seasons by any quarterback in College Football history, and with it, kept USC's chances of competing in the College Football Playoff alive.

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