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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Notre Dame a must-win for Orgeron

By Steve Bisheff

They’re only college football opinions, but at least they’re all mine:

• If popular Ed Orgeron hopes to build a groundswell of support to retain his current job as USC’s head coach, he has to beat Notre Dame. It’s that simple.

• Considering Notre Dame defeated an Arizona State team that dropped 62 points on the Trojans and Saturday’s game is in South Bend, it’s surprising the Fighting Irish are only favored by three points.

Ed Orgeron
If Ed Orgeron can beat Notre Dame this weekend, his chances to be USC's permanent coach rise greatly.
• So tell me again why Lane Kiffin ignored Nelson Agholor all that time? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

• This is the week we find out how far USC’s offensive line has come. Notre Dame’s defensive front will easily be the best the Trojans have faced up to now.

• In 42 years as a working newspaperman, USC football games at Notre Dame would have to rank among my all-time top five sporting venues. There is just nothing like the gameday atmosphere around the Golden Dome.

• At the halfway point of the season, it appears to be a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy between Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and the incumbent, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. Manziel is a transcendent talent who had another wonderful game against Ole Miss, but Mariota, with a great arm and the most speed of any quarterback in America, now has accounted for 25 touchdowns without a turnover for the nation’s most exciting team.

• Based on what I’ve seen the past two weeks from Stanford, UCLA and Brett Hundley have an excellent shot at upsetting the Cardinal in Palo Alto on Saturday.

• With its surprise victory against Stanford, Utah now becomes a team to watch in the Pac-12. Whatever happens at Notre Dame, USC won’t be able to overlook the suddenly formidable Utes on Oct. 26.

• That Texas whomping of Oklahoma has to rate as the upset of the season so far. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, a one-time candidate to be UCLA’s head coach, has done a remarkable job revitalizing a Longhorns defense that ranked among the worst in the country only a few weeks ago.

• Missouri, huh? No, I have to admit, I sure didn’t see that one coming.

• After all Washington’s early momentum, Steve Sarkisian now has to hope he can avoid making it three losses in a row at Arizona State on Saturday. Drawing Stanford, Oregon and ASU in consecutive weeks is a killer.

• Les Miles’ post-game rants tend to be on the strange side, but it doesn’t matter. He always seems to have LSU right near the top of the SEC standings. The game of the season in that talent-rich conference now looks like Nov. 9, when Miles and his Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa.

• In his final two seasons at UCLA, I kept describing 6-foot-7 tight end Joseph Fauria as a potential No. 1 draft pick. But when the draft came last spring, not only wasn’t he a first-rounder, he wasn’t picked at all. I was amazed. Seriously, all those scouts and not one could see Fauria’s potential? Well, the gentlemen paid to judge talent must be feeling a little embarrassed about now. All Fauria, the non-drafted free agent, did last Sunday was catch three -- count ‘em, three -- touchdown passes for the Detroit Lions.

• A very wise, veteran football coach once told me: Always be wary of a team coming off a strong physical and emotional effort against a better team, only to fall just short at the end. Invariably, the coach said, that team will suffer a letdown and lose decisively the following week. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wisconsin 35, Northwestern 6 as the latest prime example.

Tajh Boyd and Clemson against Jameis Winston and Florida State is probably the most interesting game of the week. The losing quarterback automatically drops out of the Heisman race.

• Oregon State always suffers a perplexing early loss, but Mike Riley has a knack of finishing strong. So the fact he and the pass-crazy Beavers figure to be 6-1 after Saturday’s game at California should make the rest of the Pac-12 very nervous.