Because USC’s defense is so weak, some Notre Dame fans and commentators might think the Irish have a chance to collect lots of chunk plays. Notre Dame might be able to accumulate stacks of 30 and 40-yard plays and get quick scores.
However, Notre Dame also knows it has to be very good on third down. This way, the Irish can keep the USC offense off the field.
We asked Fighting Irish Wire editor Nick Shepkowski whether he would prefer a lot of chunk plays or a lot of third-down conversions if forced to choose between the two.
“Notre Dame isn’t going to beat USC in a shootout which means sustained drives that result in touchdowns, not field goals,” Shepkowski told us. “Converting third down and maintaining ball possession will be key.”
If Notre Dame gets seven plays of 30 yards or more, the Irish will likely score at least 30, but if they get three plays of 30 or more, it would depend on where and when those chunk plays emerge. If the Irish throw a 35-yard pass from their own 5-yard line, they might not score on that drive. If that 35-yard pass is a 35-yard touchdown on 3rd and 8 from the USC 35, different story.
We can slice and dice the details all we want, but if we try to grapple with this question without too much contextual exploration, third-down conversion rate matters more. Notre Dame needs to keep Caleb Williams off the field. That’s the most direct path to an Irish victory.
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