Back in June, we outlined how Stanford could defeat USC yet again. And last Saturday on The Farm, in what was billed as a stunning upset, the Cardinal executed as predicted last June.
Stanford sacked and pressured Trojans QB Matt Barkley and contained WRs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and Heisman hopeful RB Stepfan Taylor pounded the rock and was largely un-tackleable by the fatigued SC defense.
Final score: 21-14, for an unprecedented fourth consecutive win by The Farm over Troy. And if PK Jordan Williamson had not deja vu'ed back to the Fiesta Bowl, the margin of victory could've been double digits.
While some expressed shock at the outcome, Stanford's win showed that the Cardinal should've been favored to win and are simply better. You want fireworks and high octane offense, the 2011 win in LA was an offensive showcase. You want dominating physical football, last Saturday's win was Exhibit A. Either way, Stanford's program—coaching, players, game day execution—is superior to USC. For now.
The pollsters clearly over-ranked the Trojans going into last Saturday's clash. In 2011, when Stanford won the triple-OT classic in the Coliseum, USC was ranked just 20th nationally. Somehow, the same nucleus of USC players, minus some key starters, rose from 20th, to become the top ranked team in preseason polls. Huh? How do you spell h-y-p-e?
Looking ahead, Stanford has some tough roadies at UW, Notre Dame, Cal, Oregon and UCLA. USC must face the same foes, but some of those match-ups will occur in the friendly confines of the Coliseum.
The Trojans' shallow roster and lack of tackling practice resulting from the Pete Carroll/Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions was on full display in Stanford's win, and there's no doubt the rest of the Pac-12 took note. A Stanford-USC rematch in the Pac-12 title game is still possible, but would anyone be surprised if USC lost at least once or twice more this fall?
Stanford, on the other hand, is back in the BCS mix. With a ferocious defense and punishing ground game, the Cardinal resemble the current NFL juggernaut, San Francisco 49ers. No coincidence there, given Jim Harbaugh's influence and leadership, first at Stanford and now with the Niners.
The Cardinal's showdown vs. Nike U. (aka Oregon) won't occur until November. A lot more could be on the line than the pundits imagined before last Saturday.