It's early, but the No. 11 Stanford Cardinal and No. 15 USC Trojans are set to meet in a pivotal Pac-12 matchup on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Both teams battered overmatched and unranked opponents in Week 1, but the going figures to be much tougher in this one. The winner of this game will likely position itself as the third-best team in the conference behind the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins—provided both of those teams win their Week 2 games.
This is going to be a fun week. The USC-Stanford rivalry is so awesome, and that would've sounded so strange 10 years ago.— Reign of Troy (@ReignofTroy) September 1, 2014
UCLA is expected to handle the Memphis Tigers at home, but Oregon will host the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans in what will be a major test for Marcus Mariota and the Ducks.
If Oregon loses, the winner of Stanford and USC could really make a significant jump in the rankings.
Last year, USC's then-junior kicker Andre Heidari made a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining to give the Trojans a hard-fought 20-17 win over Stanford. This year's game will likely be a close one as well.
Here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, September 6, at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California
TV: ABC and ESPN3
Players to Watch
When Hogan plays well, it's very difficult to beat Stanford. The team is 16-0 when he completes 60 percent of his passes or better.
Kevin Hogan on his improved knowledge of the playbook between last year and this year: “It’s night and day.” #Stanford— David Lombardi (@DavidMLombardi) August 26, 2014
Stanford's success is based on its ability to run the ball and Hogan making the simple plays in the passing game. In last year's game against the Trojans, Hogan had the worst performance of his college career.
He threw for just 127 yards, no touchdowns and was picked off twice. Stanford had three turnovers in all. The team also turned the ball over three times on Saturday against the UC Davis Aggies. If the Cardinal are going to reverse their fortunes from last season, they'll have to take care of the ball.
That starts with Hogan.
Traditionally, it's very difficult to run the ball against Stanford. For the last three years, Stanford has ranked in the top five in the nation in rushing defense. For what it's worth, the Cardinal held the Aggies to just 61 yards on the ground in Week 1.
Even with that success in stuffing the ground game, USC can't become one-dimensional.
I think USC’s rushing success in this game will be pivotal. B/c I doubt they can count on Stanford butchering multiple red zone opps again.— David Lombardi (@DavidMLombardi) September 1, 2014
Stanford out-rushed USC 210-23 last year…. and lost. Simple explanation: 10 points in 4 trips to the red zone….— David Lombardi (@DavidMLombardi) September 1, 2014
That's the reason Javorius Allen needs to have a solid game on the ground. Against Fresno State, he had 133 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Obviously, Fresno State doesn't boast the type of run defense that Stanford has, but Allen and the Trojans' offensive line were at least able to build some confidence in their ability to move the chains on the ground.
If USC can find success on the ground, it'll make the play-action pass a real weapon. With studs like Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith spread wide and Cody Kessler coming off a four-touchdown performance in Week 1, Allen would give the team a complete attack and could help usher in another Trojans win over their conference rivals.
Stats per CFBStats.com.