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Stanford Week: USC's offense against Stanford's defense

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While many have marveled at the production of the Stanford offense no one should go to sleep on the Stanford Defense.

They haven't missed a beat since losing Shayne Skov earlier this year to a knee injury.

In fact, some would say that the Stanford defense gets stronger as the game goes on...

As Washington sliced and diced Stanford's defense, converting numerous third-down chances and rushing for two long touchdowns, it was clear that the Cardinal missed injured safety Delano Howell.

Then the second half began, and Stanford went into lock-down mode.

The Cardinal held the Huskies to one meaningless touchdown and 109 yards in the second half Saturday while cruising to a 65-21 victory without Howell, a punishing hitter who missed the game because of a hand injury.

"You can't replace Delano Howell, but the guys who were in new roles stepped up and made some physical plays,'' said Michael Thomas, who moved from his normal spot at free safety into Howell's vacated strong safety position.

Nobody made a bigger play than Thomas, whose 62-yard interception return late in the second quarter gave the Cardinal a 38-14 halftime lead.

Of course, you could also say that while Stanford makes adjustments, opposing teams may lose some steam going into the second half.

Stanford is going to see one of the better defenses they will see this season when they play USC on Saturday. I know UW has an OK defense, but lets also not forget that Nick Holt isn't all that. He has had his issues in the past...and it showed last Saturday.

Lane Kiffin is going to have to keep LB Chase Thomas at bay. Thomas ranks first in the Pac-12 with 5.5 sacks. Thomas has been pretty unstoppable so far this season.

Stanford safety Delano Howell will probably miss his second straight game with a hand injury, but as noted above, that didn't seem to slow Stanford down against the Huskies.

USC has only allowed four sacks so far this season so the USC O-line against the Stanford front seven is the battle to watch. Barkley's last sack was against that nightmare against ASU, so even as the USC O-line has had issues this season they have provided protection to Barkley of late.

But getting to Barkley is only half the battle...While the Stanford Defense has been a beast, they haven't seen a passing tandem like USC's. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee offer up some challenges to Stanford. Stanford is not the best in their pass defense and with Howell probably out Woods could have a field day in the Stanford Secondary. Even UW's Chris Polk had 144 yards rushing on 15 attempts with two TD's so its not like Stanford is the Steel Curtain.

Stanford is more than happy to trade scores in their hope to where the opposition down. They have no problem giving up scores because they know they have been able to score at will on their opponents. They scored every one of their 38 trips to the red-zone.

That is impressive.

Without that gift of the Stanford clock operator last year Stanford wasn't going to win that game....and they know it. USC gave Stanford more of a game than they expected.

The question is simple, can USC build on their efforts from last year?

This will not be a gimme for Stanford but USC has a lot of work to do on Saturday.