Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Game Preview and Prediction

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Game Preview and Prediction
Harry How/Getty Images

The No. 20* USC Trojans (6-1) host the No. 4* Stanford Cardinal (7-0) in ESPN’s “College GameDay” this Saturday in a nationally televised game on ABC.

The Trojans are fresh off an upset 31-17 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at South Bend.

Stanford ran all over (school record 446 yards rushing) the previously No. 22* Washington Huskies 65-21 to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games.

QB Andrew Luck commented on the Cardinal rushing record, “I think that will be something special down the road for guys to look back on. Hopefully it's broken next week [against USC]."

Here is the USC media release for the game.

Key Stats Comparison









Category

USC

Ranking

Stanford

Ranking



Rushing Offense (Yards)

  145.7

   65

  219.4

   17



Passing Offense (Yards)

  286.9

   22

  284.7

   25



Total Offense (Yards

  432.6

   37

  504.1

    9



Scoring Offense (Points)

   30.1

   50

   48.6

    2



Passing Efficiency (Percent)

  154.5

   15

  180.1

    3



Third Down Conversions (Percent)

   47.3

  T-27

   53.4

    5



Red Zone Conversions (TDs)

   51.6

  101

   79

    1



Sacks allowed (Number)

   0.57

   T-5

   0.29

    1



Rushing Defense (Yards)

   91.1

    11

   75.6

    3



Pass Defense (Yards)

  265.1

  104

  238.6

   81



Total Defense (Yards)

  356.3

   43

  314.1

   18



Scoring Defense (Points)

   22.6

  T-38

   12.6

    4



Sacks (Number)

   1.86

   68

    3.57

    4



Tackles for Loss (Number)

    4.43

  T-107

    8.14

    5



Net Punting (Yards/Punt)

   34.6

   98

   35.5

   87



Punt Returns (Yards)

    9.9

   41

   11.3

   28



Kickoff Returns (Yards)

   20.6

   83

   26.1

    9



FG Success (Percent)

   84.6

  T-21

   91.7

    8



Turnover Margin

   0.14

  T-50

    0.86

  T-16



Penalties

   52.4

  T-67

   45.3

  T-35









 

Keys to USC victory

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
USC's offense must have a great game

 

Stanford dominates in almost all meaningful statistical categories. Furthermore, the Cardinal’s impressive win over the first ranked team they played eliminated the criticism that they have not played good teams.

The Trojans need to keep doing what they did against Notre Dame: The balanced attack and aggressive defense, along with better special teams play (similar to prior games) are required.

There can be no mistakes as USC must continue their turnover fortune of the previous two games, benefiting from eight takeaways while only giving up one.

The problem is that Stanford is a much better team that Notre Dame in almost every way. But the Trojans are best served if they don’t worry about Stanford and focus instead on themselves and what they need to do.

The offense needs QB Matt Barkley (2006 yards, 68.2%, 19 TDs, 4 INT, Rating 154.7) to play smart like he did against Notre Dame, but they also need him to have a phenomenal performance and hit the longer passes that he has missed in recent games.

The OL needs to continue to play well and run block even better against the Stanford defense which is ranked No. 3 against the rush, only allowing 75.1 yards per game. The Cardinal defense is also ranked No. 4 in sacks at 3.6 per game and No. 5 in tackles for loss at 8.1 per game.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
WR Robert Woods makes another incredible catch against Notre Dame

 

WR Robert Woods (72 receptions, 902 yards, 8 TDs), freshman Marqise Lee (27 receptions, 440 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon Carswell, Brice Butler, TE freshmen Xavier Grimble (11 receptions, 103 yards, 3 TDs) and Randall Telfer (10 receptions, 127 yards, 2 TDs), all need to play at the top of their games.

USC running backs senior Marc Tyler (96 carries, 435 yards, 2 TDs) and redshirt junior Curtis McNeal (65 carries, 407 yards, 2 TDs) are playing well, and another 200-plus yard rushing game is needed against the Cardinal.

The Trojans need to do better than 50 percent in third down conversions and score every time they have the ball deep in Stanford territory, especially since they are only averaging a 52 percent touchdown rate inside the red zone.

The defense and special teams need to play their best games. It will be very difficult for the Trojans to stop the Cardinal who are averaging almost 49 points per game, No. 2 nationally.

However, forcing turnovers and using special teams for better field position may keep USC in the game. Getting a kickoff or punting TD from special teams for the first time this season would be very helpful.

Kicker Andre Heidari injured his ankle in the Notre Dame game and it is key that he make a complete recovery because the Trojans will need every point and field position on kickoffs.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Stanford offense

 

Keys to Stanford Victory

Stanford simply needs to keep doing what they have been doing all season. They have played smart, physical football that has dominated the second half of games. It is true that they did not play a single good team until Washington, but the way they disposed of the Huskies was convincing.

Heisman favorite QB Andrew Luck (1,888 yards, 71.8 percent, 20 TDs, 3 INTs, Rating 180.0) is the key to the Stanford offense because he makes a lot of the decisions on plays and will take advantage of whatever the defense gives him.

Stanford has four very good, physical running backs led by Stephan Taylor (111 carries, 697 yards, 6 TDs). Tyler Gaffney (6’1”, 216 pounds), Anthony Wilkerson (6’1”, 220 pounds) and Jeremy Stewart (6’1”, 218 pounds) are all averaging between 4.1 and 7.2 yards per carry. Even Luck is averaging 5.2 yards per carry for 83 yards and one TD.

Luck spreads the ball around to his receivers and uses TEs very effectively. Six receivers have over 13 receptions and at least one TD.

The four leading receivers are 6’6” TE Coby Fleener (17 receptions, 384 yards, 7 TDs), WR Chris Owusu (30 receptions, 349 yards, 2 TDs), WR Griff Whalen (24 receptions, 345 yards, 1 TD) and 6’6” TE Zack Ertz (22 receptions, 308 yards, 3 TDs).

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

 

The only weakness in the Stanford defense is the 239 yards opponents have averaged passing. However, much of that is because the Cardinal only allow 76 yards rushing per game. Their defense ranks No. 18 nationally and their scoring defense (at 12.6 points per game) ranks No. 4.

Stanford is ranked No. 16 in the turnover margin and No. 35 in penalties, so they make few mistakes.

 

Prediction

It could be a very long night in the Coliseum for the Trojans unless they play like they did in the first and fourth quarters against Notre Dame.

Although Stanford opens as an 8.5 point favorite, almost anyone who has watched the Cardinal play and looked at their statistics would expect a greater margin of victory. However, the Trojans are improving and have a “Fight On” chance.

Here’s hoping for a big USC payback upset for Stanford's 24-23 victory over the heavily favored Pete Carroll coached Trojans in 2007.

USC 37, Stanford 34 

Catch the nationally televised game on ABC this Saturday at 5:00pm PT if you can’t make it in person. Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews will call the game. The game will be televised everywhere but the southeast. Fans in Mississipi to Virginia to Florida will have to watch the game on ESPN3.com or ESPN Gameplan.

 

*Week 9 AP Rankings

Load More Stories

Follow USC Football from B/R on Facebook

Follow USC Football from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

USC Football

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.