National Championship Preview: USC vs. Notre Dame
This is it. 14 teams and eight weeks of the regular season plus two playoff rounds have all built us up to this point. Teams eliminated, fighting to be one of the final six teams, then fighting to be one of the final four, until only two remained. USC and Notre Dame now stand opposed. A clash between two great historic teams, both of which have played on this stage, and one of which has come out on top. And so, we begin with the team who is seeking their first National Title.
In their second year in the CFSL, USC has returned to the national title game, one that for the first time will feature two Big Ten teams. The Big Ten hasn’t had a national champion crowned yet (Notre Dame’s Season 1 title does not count because all teams were independent) and the streak will end at 6. USC was able to quietly put together an incredible season with losses only to Auburn, Nebraska, and Notre Dame. The Trojans have a chance to create a trend at winning rematches as they’ve already faced Notre Dame once this season, a 61-13 loss. Fear not, SoCal has already proven they can make adjustments after winning the Gator Bowl against Auburn to get the proverbial monkey off their back and for the rights to an another appearance to the title game.
As stated before, USC had some “quirks” they needed to get worked out on offense, and that they did as they were able to rack up 476 yards against Auburn in the Gator Bowl. Signal-caller Kingston Fox needs to continue his big game swagger and control the takeaways. As long as Fox continues to control the game with consistency and big plays USC can limit Notre Dame’s offensive touches as well. Receivers Mason Winters, Tim Cope, and Marcus Seals all need to have perfect games to keep the chains moving consistently, and come up with a big catch or two to give the offense a spark when needed. Lastly, halfback Cain Robinson provides the perfect safety valve for the offense in the running game. If the Trojans can get a steady dose of Robinson mixed in with Kingston Fox’s playmaking ability, then they will be standing on the stage hoisting the trophy at the end of the night.
Defensively, the Trojans looked great in the semifinals holding Auburn to just 309 yards of offense. Johnathon Greene and Marcellus Burney are going to have to be on point as they will have their hands full with this Fighting Irish receiving corps. As a defense you know you don’t have to stop Notre Dame’s receivers, you simply have to limit their big play ability. Linebackers Benjamin Kaye and Maine Patterson combined for 15 tackles against Auburn including two sacks, and they’re going to need more in this one to continue that team success. Lastly, the Trojan safeties of Peyton Myles, Terrence Goldsberry, and Digby Krause are going to have to play lights out on the deep end of the field, again manage the big plays and take it one down at a time.
Keys to Game
After only allowing 200 yards through the air last game, The Legion needs another stand out performance by the defense to pull out their first national title. Watch for increased pressure on Fighting Irish signal-caller Leo Asiata to force short throws, off-balanced throws, and ultimately turnovers. Whoever wins the turnover game, will win this one. USC has the secondary to slow receiver Dijon Swann as well, so linebackers Kaye and Patterson should be ready to stop anything coming in the middle of the field on the ground or in the air.
Kingston Fox: the “do everything” quarterback controls the success of this team not only as a player but as a leader. He’s the rallying cry, the runner, the thrower, and he’s going to do everything he can to will this team to a national title.
Johnathon Green: he’s likely to get a heavy dose of WR Dijon Swann, and has the talent to be a threat to Swann’s game. Also, his ability to force turnovers this season will be the very thing that puts this defense in a position to win the whole shabang.
NOTRE DAME Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has been in this game before, some may forget but they where the season one National Champions. They are built in tradition and with this season have also won two conference titles also. Although the last couple of seasons may have been a rebuilding process for the Irish, they have patiently build a well balanced team with some explosive weapons on both sides of the ball. This may be the reason they called their shot to begin the season with saying they would win the Big Ten and the National Championship. Well one down and one still left to go.
The offense for Notre Dame has been one of explosion for this season. Quarterback Leo Asiata has been amazing at throwing the ball and has amassed 3,064 yards in the air with 23 touchdown passes. no wonder why he is a Player of the Year candidate. He will have to continue this against the vaulted USC defense for the Irish to lift the trophy on Monday night. One of his main targets is another force in our league, wide out Dijon Swan, a sure handed deep threat who not only had over a 1,000 yards receiving but nine touchdowns also. You mix in Dexter Jackson, Pearson Gilliam, and tight end Alistar Kye, Notre Dame’s air power is next to unstoppable. The addition of Freshman tailback Kaiden Saint III is just the icing on the cake and his dual threat ability has to keep the Trojan defense honest. If Notre Dame can recreate what they did last time these two teams meet the it will be a long night for USC.
This defense is for real folks and if you think they aren’t ready for this game then you don’t know their mind set. They are seasoned and battle tested with the likes of linebackers Shoto Pence and Jerome Hawkins and the secondary of corner Jackson Stone and safeties Zeus Williams, Minkah Solo, and Alastor Jericho. Wow, just eye popping talent. You make a mistake against these guys and they are taking you to the cleaners.You take out the Ohio State game from early in the season and they just don’t give up points. When asked about playing USC again one defender said, “They are our rivals and we want to beat them.” In order to do that, Stone and Jericho are going to have to play at their highest levels to come out on top against those Trojan receivers, both of whom are dynamic themselves. Another key factor will be the the defensive line keeping the Trojan rushing game in check, something they did very well last time they met, holding USC to 59 total yards. Put it all together and it is an Irish Championship.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Notre Dame hasn’t shown much of a weakness lately. It’s been strike fast and hard, showing no mercy to any. That’s been the key for the Fighting Irish. Taking deep shots downfield. However, if there’s one thing that they must ensure, it’s avoiding negative yardage. Quarterback Leo Asiata lost 40 yards in the semifinals against Alabama. He lost 40 on seven carries! Protecting Leo Asiata and staying ahead of the chains is a must for a successful night.
The one person I haven’t mention much in this is whom I think is the X-factor for Notre Dame. Kaiden Saint III. We know all about the Irish air attack, but last time these two teams met it was Saint who was the star of the game. His FIVE rushing touchdown total was one of the best performances that this league has ever seen from a halfback. It work last time and if he gets rolling again then the men from So Cal won’t enjoy Monday night at all.
Buckle up. These two teams are fighting for everything, their seasons are on the line tonight. Winner takes all. The methodical offense of USC against the aggressive defense of the Fighting Irish. The explosive, killshot offense of Notre Dame against the stingy Trojan secondary. Tonight, Season Seven will come to a close, and it will do so with great fanfare. Hard hits, highlight reel type plays, all of it testing the mental fortitude of every member of the programs involved tonight. The National Championship, historically for the CFSL, has been filled with so many twists and turns, so many different narratives on display for tonight. A single turnover can change the entire course of the season tonight. No picks. No bold proclamations, not for this game. Grab some popcorn, get comfortable, and buckle up for the greatest show of the season.