The 10 Greatest Stanford-USC Games of All-Time
Since 1922, the Stanford Cardinal and the USC Trojans have faced off on an annual basis (missing a few years here and there). Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it has been quite the one-sided affair.
The Trojans hold a 56-21-3 record against Stanford and amazingly, have only lost eight games on the Farm. USC has two 12-plus game win streaks against Stanford, which greatly shows how these contests tend to tilt.
While the Cardinal still post a losing record when this game takes place in Southern California (16-23-1), it appears that Stanford relishes being the road underdog.
Quite honestly, they always seem to have a better chance of coming out with a victory in this series away from Palo Alto.
Despite the Trojans' dominance in this long-lived series, there have been several memorable games that have stuck with the fan bases of both teams throughout the years.
And while finding out just what happened in these historical games was no easy task (I can't remember the last time I used Microfiche), I did my best to grab a wide range of games that truly made an impact in this series (whether I was alive to watch the game or not).
Hope you enjoy the list!
No. 10—Oct. 27, 1956: Stanford 27, USC 19
USC marched into the Farm undefeated and were looking to keep the conference wins rolling against a Stanford team that, despite some early losses, were still without a loss in conference play.
In John Brodie’s final USC/Stanford game, he helped lead Stanford past highly favored USC, saddling the Trojans with their first loss of the year and eventually keeping them out of the Rose Bowl.
Although this was a sweet victory at the time for Stanford, the Cardinal went on to lose their final four games after this match-up.
No. 9—Sep. 10, 1988: USC 24, Stanford 20
Stanford’s first game of the 1988 season would be a heartbreaker handed to it by the Cardinal's longtime foe.
The Cardinal held a 20-17 lead late in the fourth and were a defensive stop away from completing the first huge upset of the season.
Heisman Trophy candidate Rodney Peete shook off a slow start, and with the help of running back Aaron Emanuel, came back to win the game for USC on a touchdown scoring drive.
Peete went 6-for-8 in the final drive, finishing the day with 187 yards and one touchdown. Emanuel, the star of the game, scored two touchdowns and collected over 270 yards rushing.
No. 8—Oct. 11, 1969: USC 26, Stanford 24
Fresh off a season where they finished as the Pac-8’s first conference champs, USC started the 1969 season 3-0.
The Trojans welcomed a Stanford team that was recently wounded by an explosive Purdue offense which handed Stanford its first loss of the season.
USC, who eventually finished the season undefeated (10-0-1) and repeated as conference champs, staggered out of the gate against Jim Plunkett of the Indians (Stanford's name, before they took "the Cardinal"). As the fourth quarter was creeping to a close, USC trailed Stanford by one point.
With just enough time to run one last play, kicker Ron Ayala sealed the win for the Trojans with a 35-yard game-winning field goal.
It would be the final game that Stanford lost in 1969. Unfortunately, the only thing standing between it and the Pac-8 crown was this unforgettable field goal.
No.7—Nov. 7, 1992: Stanford 23, USC 9
Ranked 11th in the nation, USC traveled to Palo Alto, a place where it had always had success. But this season, the No. 21 Cardinal were hoping to turn the tables.
In 1991, Stanford beat the Trojans in L.A., snapping a 15-game winless streak, but USC still had a 10-game winning streak against the Cardinal on the Farm.
While Steve Stenstrom played a big part in getting Stanford down the field, completing 23-for-39 and accumulating 273 yards, it was the Cardinal’s defense that made a difference in this game.
John Lynch played the biggest part in the Cardinal’s win, picking off four passes and returning one for a touchdown to put the game away in the fourth.
No. 6—Oct. 30, 1926: Stanford 13, USC 12
Both teams entered this year’s matchup undefeated, boasting pristine 5-0 records.
In a game that eventually decided the Pacific Coast Conference champions, Stanford came out atop thanks to some sloppy special teams play.
USC scored first in the game but Stanford’s Dick Hyland blocked the extra point. The next time the Trojans found the end zone, they missed the extra point all together. Stanford scored right before half time, but it too missed the extra point.
In the second half, Stanford quarterback Biff Hoffman connected on a touchdown pass to Hyland and kicker George Bogue’s extra point ultimately was the game winner.
Stanford went on to win the rest of its games and played Alabama for the National Championship in the Rose Bowl. A 7-7 tie in the final game of year forced both teams to share the title.
No. 5 - Nov. 4, 1995: USC 31, Stanford 30
Coming off a loss to Notre Dame and a tie with Washington, the 14th ranked Trojans almost made it three straight games without a win against the struggling Cardinal.
Stanford leaned heavily on Mark Butterfield, who passed for 345 yards and a touchdown, but three lead changes in the fourth and inept red zone offensive play would end up dooming the Cardinal.
On three separate occasions, Stanford moved the ball past the Trojans' 10-yard line but failed to come up with anything more than a field goal.
Desperately holding on to a six-point lead, the Cardinal let Keyshawn Johnson beat them single-handedly, despite having kept him quiet for most of the game.
A 32-yard pass to Johnson late in the fourth pushed the Trojans into the Cardinal’s red zone and a few plays later, Johnson ended up catching the game-winning touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball by Kyle Wachhotlz.
No. 4—Oct. 13, 1979: Stanford 21, USC 21
The Cardinal, coming off a huge win against UCLA the week prior, started off extremely rocky against the nation’s top ranked team.
USC jumped off to an early 21-0 lead and things looked to be clicking for the undefeated Trojans.
But after halftime, something sparked the Stanford offense. With future hall-of-famer John Elway looking on from the bench, senior quarterback Turk Schonert led the Cardinal to an improbable comeback.
Schonert connected on a touchdown pass to freshman running back Mike Dotterer in the third and threw another to All-American wide receiver Ken Margerum early in the fourth.
With four minutes left in the fourth, Schonert ran in a 10-yard keeper to tie the game.
USC would have a chance to win the game with a 39-yard field goal in the final minute of the game but Jeff Fisher fumbled the snap, which set up Gordon Banks to block the kick and ultimately end the game in a tie.
The tie would be the only blemish in an otherwise perfect season for USC.
No. 3—Nov. 11, 1933: Stanford 13, USC 7
Two field goals by All-American lineman Bill Corbus made all the difference in this enormous upset of the 2-to-1 favorite Trojans.
A close game throughout, Stanford took the lead on Corbus’s field goal from USC’s 23 with only four minutes remaining in the game.
The Indians added an insurance field goal right before the game ended, completing the upset.
Stanford went on to split the Pacific Coast Conference title with Oregon, but lost to Columbia in the Rose Bowl.
No. 2—Oct. 23, 1999: Stanford 35, USC 31
In another game where USC would relinquish a 21-point lead, it was a favored Stanford looking to escape with victory.
The Trojans would open the game scoring touchdowns on their first three drives, but Tyrone Willingham’s Cardinal found a way to right the ship.
USC was outscored 35-10 in the final three quarters, keeping Stanford undefeated in Pac-10 play.
Stanford’s quarterback, Todd Husak, played the biggest part in the Cardinal’s victory, throwing for two touchdowns and scoring the game-winning TD on a QB sneak to cap off a 14-play, 55-yard drive.
Mike Van Raaphorst set a record for USC, collecting 415 passing yards. However, he was picked off three times by the Stanford defense, with the final interception coming late in the fourth, thereby solidifying the win for the Cardinal.
No. 1—Oct. 6, 2007: Stanford 24, USC 23
In a game that fans will probably never forget, Stanford upended the 41-point favorite USC Trojans.
This is consider by many as the biggest upset in college football history.
With 49 seconds left to play in regulation, Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard threw a 10-yard pass to a leaping Mark Bradford in the corner of the end zone, giving the Cardinal a 24-23 lead and silencing the packed Los Angeles Coliseum crowd.
The Cardinal’s win snapped a 35-game winning streak for USC at home and a five-game win streak over Stanford.
Stanford shocked the world in a game that is by far the best this rivalry has seen in its 84-year existence.