Three matchups to watch in every Top 25 game
In every Top 25 game, there are individual matchups destined to determine the outcome. Here are the ones to watch.
No. 1 USC at No. 9 Notre Dame
1. USC RB Reggie Bush vs. Notre Dame OLB Brandon Hoyte
Hoyte is without question Notre Dame's most reliable defender. He has emerged as the leader of this group and he is playing with a great deal of toughness and emotion on a weekly basis. In terms of run support, Hoyte has the instincts, quickness and tackling skills to do a formidable job of wrapping up Bush -- so long as it's not in too much space. The big issue, however, will be in coverage, as Hoyte is a much better pass rusher (four sacks this season) than he is cover-guy. The problem for the Irish is that they simply cannot afford to use their linebackers as pass rushers with any sort of regularity, because USC simply has too many weapons to defend in coverage. As a result, look for the Trojans to use Bush possibly even more than usual as a receiver -- either out of the backfield or the slot -- in order to isolate the explosive and versatile junior one-on-one versus Hoyte. Bush did suffer an knee injury last week versus Arizona but he has been cleared to play and should have enough burst and flexibility to exploit this mismatch in the passing game.
These are the types of mismatches that present huge hurdles for defensive coordinator Rick Minter as he prepares a game-plan for Saturday's visit from the Trojans. Richardson, who has one interception and four broken up passes on the season, has developed into the Irish' most reliable cover corner -- but that's not saying much for a unit that ranks 114th nationally in pass defense. Richardson will be giving up seven inches and 20 pounds in this individual matchup, which means he cannot be left alone on an island versus Jarrett. The problem with double teaming Jarrett (35 catches for 467 yards and nine TDs), however, is that it opens up more real estate for other weapons such as Bush, WR Steve Smith and TE Dominique Byrd.