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Sure, Stanford has a chance...but how much is another matter

As eveidence of games that we have all seen the past 2 seasons the little guy can beat Goliath. but rarely does it happen two times in a row. So while I won't take any team lightly the chances of lightnng striking twice are remote. Stanford has the bragging rights from last season's upse,t they have the t-shirts to prove it, their win is no different that ucla's 13-9 win in 2006. it may have been a great win for them that will always be celebrated but in the grand scheme of things its just an upset as neither program has done much since those wins.

So the big question today will be how will SC fair against an improved Stanford team that schockingly beat USC last year.

The question once again will be how effective will the offense be. This has been the main question for a good portion of the season. Stanford has talekn on a new identity with with Jim Harbaugh as its coach. A football program that has some of the best academic students in the land now plays with a blue-collar, lunch pail type attitude. That's because of Harbaugh.

Jon Wilner seems to think that this game will be a lot closer than the spread and that Stanford actually has a chance to win.

Subtract games against the inept Washington schools, and the Trojans are averaging 25.4 points in conference play — hardly the sign of a juggernaut.

And in Pac-10 road games against Oregon State and Arizona, the Trojans averaged just 19 points per game. We're not talking about Leinart-Bush-White-Jarrett here.

The Trojans lead the conference in penalties per game and penalty yards per game, and they're eighth in red zone efficiency.

All of which makes it unlikely that USC will score so early and so often that Stanford is forced to abandon its game plan.

I see where he is coming from but then he get's a little carried away...

You can't move the ball through the air against the Trojans, at least not consistently. The four-man pass rush is too powerful and the blitzes are insane; the linebackers get too deep in their drops; the defensive backs are too good in man-to-man.

But it's not enough to be an effective running team. You have to be a run-centric team. The foundation of your offense cannot be the quarterback, because the Trojans will render him useless (see: Tuitama, Willie; and Carpenter, Rudy). It has to be the running backs.

And that's exactly how Stanford plays, right down to the 230-pound tailback (Toby Gerhart) and the linebacker-flattening fullbacks.

WIlner is placing way too much on the supposed "break-through" win last season. Meaning that they did it once and they can do it again. That's fine...we'll see.

But Wilner has some holes in his logic.

Tony Gebhart is a fine player but he is banged up so while I would expect him to give it his best he is already starting from a deficit position. As for the fullbacks Wilner mentions...looking at Stanford's rushing stats I am not seeing the numbers of dominance that Wilner is alluding to. The fact is Stanford has had a decent season but they have not faced a defense like this and as much as I like Tony Gebhart as a story of courage that he is he will have a tough time getting his motor moving with any consistencey.

I think that's flawed thinking. WIlner already admits that it will be tough to put it up in the air against SC so you would expect Stanford to try and run the ball. The USC secondary has no problem playing man coverage so bring the safeties up and crowd the box. SImplistic? Yes, but that may be how the game will be played.

The other thing that WIlner seems to be missing is the atrocious Stanford pass defense. Steve Bisheff makes a good observation. (emphasis mine)

[S]o what we've had lately is a new, more conservative Sanchez. He isn't throwing the ball around as spectacularly, but he isn't throwing interceptions, either. "It's hard to hold back," he said. "You still have that street sense mentality to throw it all over the yard."

It will be interesting to see what that mentality is tomorrow. Stanford is last in the Pac-10 in pass defense and 99th in the country in that category. Their secondary is suspect, and you have to think Carroll and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will let Sanchez open up more than he has of late.

Maybe this game won't be a blow out but the circumstances are different than they were last season. I am not into the revenge scenario but SC want's to make amends from last seasons performance. USC isn't in the BCS Title chase, I don't care what you read, that ship has sailed. The pressure is off they need to just play like they have in the past. It doesn't always have to be pretty; scoring 17 points against UA and Cal may make some scratch their heads but the defense is shutting their opponents down game in and game out. Sanchez is no John David Booty, if he gets injured there will be no hesitation about bringing in Mustain unlike last season.

The die is cast for SC...keep winning it doesn't matter how pretty it is or isn't, as the BCS prize is out of reach we need to focus on winning the Pac-10. Sure Stanford is doing some trash talking they are emboldened from last seasons loss but like I said, I have a hard time seeing lightning strike twice.