College Football Predictions: How USC Can Beat Stanford in Week 9
The matchup between USC and Stanford will probably be the second-biggest game in the Pac-12 this season. The Trojans are hosting a very talented Stanford team led by Heisman favorite Andrew Luck.
Stanford is a 7.5-point favorite with a running game that has been demolishing it’s opponents this season. It has one of the most difficult offenses to defend, which has resulted in the 7-0 record.
The Trojans have been solid all season long but will have to raise their level of play to beat No. 6 Stanford. There are many things this Trojan’s team needs to do in order to beat the national title contender Cardinal and catapult themselves into the national spotlight once again.
Line from Sportsbook.ag.
Stop the Running Game
Stanford can really run the ball, ranking 17th in the nation and averaging 219.4 per game, though the running game really hasn’t received much recognition with Andrew Luck behind center. Running back Stepfan Taylor continues to be the best running back that nobody is talking about. He is patient finding the whole and knows when to explode.
The offensive line has been solid as well.
The Trojans have a defense that is improving every week. The front seven, led by defensive end Nick Perry, is fast and explosive and able to get penetration. USC gives up 91.1 yards on the ground, ranking 11th in the nation, and really has been forcing teams to pass the ball more because of it.
Everyone on the Trojans defense must play better then they have in the previous games in order to stop Stanford's great running game.
The Trojans have been taking care of the ball well and only turning it over once in the last two games. Head coach Lane Kiffin has done a great job in preparing quarterback Matt Barkley to not panic in certain situations and to not force the ball in tight windows. The receivers and backs have also done a great job at not putting the ball on the ground.
Heading into Week 8, this team is starting to get focused and learning from their mistakes.
In order to upset the Cardinal, this team cannot have more then one turnover because Stanford is so great at capitalizing on them. More than one turnover can set the Trojans back by a touchdown or two in this game.
If you have ever been to a college football game, you would know how important home-field advantage is. The feeling of having more then 50,000 fans cheering for you to win the game is huge.
The USC Trojans are playing at home in a packed house and the city of Los Angeles will have this team’s back as Stanford heads into the Coliseum.
The crowd noise will be loud to the point that Luck and the rest of the Cardinal will have difficulties in getting the plays in. The fans will lift the Trojans up to play hard and pull out a close win.
Front Seven Must Get Pressure on Luck
Defensive end Nick Perry predicted he would get 15 sacks this season. He currently has four and will need a lot to catch up, so why not start this Saturday against Andrew Luck?
Luck has been untouched this season, and if the Trojans front seven can rattle him a few times, it can change the dynamics of this game.
Perry and Devon Kennard are absolute beasts on a defensive line that is looking better with each passing week. If they can get to the quarterback with their speed, USC can keep the linebackers back to watch Luck’s favorite targets, the tight ends and running backs.
Get Robert Woods the Ball
Robert Woods is one of the most dominant wide receiver in the nation. He continues to rack up a lot of receptions and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in five of seven games this season. Every week teams look to double team Woods, but he usually manages come down with the ball. He has great hands and route-running ability.
Stanford will have safety Michael Thomas over the top watching Woods throughout the game. From what I have witnessed in the first seven games, no one can guard Woods, so if I were Barkley I would throw it to him at every chance.
If the Trojans want to win, Woods needs to be targeted 20 times. He is their best player and playmaker and he can win the game for them.
Offensive Line Play
The offensive line rarely gives up a sack and blocks really well when Barkley is passing. What this line has been struggling with is getting solid blocks so the running backs can get free.
This line is led by one of the best in the nation in Matt Kalil, who protects Barkley’s blind side. They must keep linebacker Chase Thomas from getting to Barkley when he blitzes. Thomas is fast and strong, just like ex-Trojan Clay Matthews. He must be watched at all times.
Stanford is great at getting penetration and averages almost four sacks a game. It loves to blitz different linebackers from all over the field to try and get to the quarterback.
The offensive line must continue to improve its run blocking. It has been solid in the last two games and looks to keep the ball moving against this great Stanford defense.
Running the Ball
USC found another solid running back in Curtis McNeal when starter Marc Tyler went down from an injury against Cal. McNeal is a little back who runs well in between the tackles. He seems to get lost behind the linemen and gains a lot of yards because of it.
Last week against Notre Dame, Tyler was back and teamed with McNeal to gain over 200 yards. The two-headed running game will definitely be needed to set up the play action for Barkley and his receivers this week. It is not going to be easy as the Cardinal’s rush defense is ranked third in the nation, giving up only 75.6 yards a game.
The offensive line needs to keep the Cardinal front seven at bay and continue to improve. Kiffin must give the ball to the running backs at least 30 times in this game to win.
Kiffin Must Coach Better
Coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t really proved to the world that he is a great head coach. He has been a guy who has stirred up a lot of controversy and done some unorthodox things. He also tends to let his emotions get the best of him.
The Trojans still cannot compete for a BCS bowl game because of sanctions, but wouldn’t a win against a really good Stanford team give Kiffin and this team some positive notoriety?
Kiffin must coach better then he ever has to win this game. He must continue the balanced offensive attack by running and passing the ball. Kiffin also seems to throw in trick plays at odd moments of the game, and I don’t believe he should try any trickery against this solid Stanford team.
Coach Kiffin must raise his team's level of play and out-coach his counterpart in order to win this game.
Matt Barkley Will Have to Play His Best Game of His Career
At times, quarterback Matt Barkley has looked great and ready for the NFL, but other times he has seemed lost and confused. He has also missed a lot of deep passes with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee streaking down the field. He needs to be accurate and hit the deep ball to his receivers in this game.
Last week against Notre Dame, Barkley looked great and played smart. He is going to have to play even better against a far superior Stanford Cardinal team. Look for the running game to set up the play action so Barkley can unleash the deep ball to his explosive receivers.
Barkley must not have any turnovers and cannot force the ball. He must be patient and accurate against a well-coached Stanford defense. This must be Matt Barkley's best game of his collegiate career for USC to win.
Pray That Luck Has a Bad Game
USC fans must pray that quarterback Andrew Luck has a bad game. He has had off games this season but the Cardinal still won.
If Luck can throw a few picks or fumble the ball, it will give this young USC Trojans team a chance.
Everyone, please pray and hope.