Commentary

Field position key to productive drives

If Irish get buried deep in own territory, Clausen might not be enough to bail them out

Updated: October 14, 2009, 4:53 PM ET
By Bill Connelly | Football Outsiders
Jimmy ClausenMatt Cashore/US PresswireJimmy Clausen leads college football in passing efficiency.

The gravity of Saturday afternoon's showdown between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans is well-covered. Not only does Charlie Weis need a breakthrough victory on the résumé (as Bruce Feldman outlined on Monday, Weis' biggest win to date probably has been a loss -- the 2005 "Bush Push" game), but he will rarely have an opportunity to beat a more vulnerable USC team.

Notre Dame fans are still waiting for a big win, and in needing last-second heroics to beat Michigan State, Purdue and Washington, the Fighting Irish have not yet proved themselves significantly better than last year's squad. Meanwhile, the Trojans have scored more than 30 points just once in 2009 and rank 70th in Close-Game S&P+ (Note: Definitions for Football Outsiders' unique stats can be found here). Both Notre Dame and USC are flawed entities in 2009, but that does not make Saturday's game any less intriguing.

To read about potential deciding factors in this weekend's game, you must be an Insider. Insider