Stanford vs. USC: Keys to Trojans Scoring Upset Win over Cardinal

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Stanford vs. USC: Keys to Trojans Scoring Upset Win over Cardinal
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Coach "O" has to be the most popular guy on USC's campus.

Since taking over for the embattled Lane Kiffin earlier this year, interim coach Ed Orgeron has led the Trojans to a 4-1 record and restored the swagger to the Southern California sidelines. Not to mention that he gave hand-written letters to every member of the USC marching band, further endearing himself to the fanbase.

A win over No. 4 Stanford would do a lot in strengthening Orgeron's case for the job long-term. Let's take a look at some of the keys for USC to pull off the upset in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

 

Keep the Running Game Going

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No matter who's been in at tailback the past few weeks, they've been tearing it up for the Trojans.

Silas Redd will be out after suffering a knee injury against Cal last week, but Tre Madden is expected to return after being limited to just one carry the past two weeks due to a hamstring injury, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports.

The team's most impressive back recently has been sophomore Javorious Allen, who followed up his 16-carry, 133-yard, three-TD performance against Oregon State with a six-carry, 135-yard, two-TD effort against Cal, one that included a 79-yard touchdown run

The team also received a boost from freshman Ty Isaac, who had a career day last week by carrying the ball 11 times for 87 yards and two scores. Madden was the team's featured back to start the year, but with his tender hamstring and Allen's emergence, it will be interesting to see how USC attacks the No. 9-ranked Cardinal rush defense.

 

Contain Tyler Gaffney

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford senior running back Tyler Gaffney put on quite the performance in last week's 26-20 win over Oregon, carrying the ball a whopping 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown. While the 3.5 yards per carry isn't all that impressive, just the fact that he can handle the workload is worth noting.

In the three contests since Stanford lost to Utah 27-21, Gaffney has been an absolute workhorse. In that span, he's averaged more than 34 attempts, 157.7 yards and two touchdowns per game. Entering play Saturday, USC ranks 17th in rush defense, giving up an average of 113 yards per contest.

According to Ed Feng of Grantland.com, Gaffney is questionable for the game.

Gaffney has accounted for 1,043 yards this year and 13 touchdowns as his team's top back. If Gaffney is limited, expect Anthony Wilkerson to see more carries.

But as Feng noted, the true reason behind Stanford's great success running the ball has been its physical offensive line. It will be up to USC's defensive line to weather the storm, especially in the second half when teams typically wear down against Stanford.

 

Cody Kessler Needs to Stay Hot

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The sophomore quarterback has been on point the past two weeks, completing a combined 31 of 38 passes for 417 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in convincing road wins over Oregon State and Cal.

Kessler has been largely inconsistent this season, though, and will need to keep it up against a Cardinal defense that held Heisman candidate and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in check for most of the game last week.

With such a powerful run game behind him, Kessler needs to follow the same script that's led them to big wins the past couple weeks: hand the ball off and don't try to do too much. USC's defense and special teams have also been playing at a high level lately, so Kessler shouldn't feel the need to try and put the team on his back.

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