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Conquest Chronicles Breaks Down Tonight's Showdown

Dying to find out whether the Trojans can shock the Stanford Cardinal tonight? We call upon three of our senior writers to bring some perspective to the table on what should be yet another grind it out USC vs. Stanford tilt.


1. What can the Trojans carry forward from its recent three-game winning streak heading into its first top-25 match up of the season?

(IT @italian_trojan) In a nothing-left-to-lose season, USC is suddenly bowl-eligible and miraculously remains in contention for the Pac-12 South crown. Nevertheless, the nothing-left-to-lose mentality must remain. The Trojans has to continue their jovial style of play, unity, and effort regardless of injury reports, media cooler talk, or the names on either sideline. Simply harness the energy of the Stanford Tree and then punch it in the face. Intangibles warrant no further questions.

(Shotgun @ShotgunSpr) The Trojans will carry the confidence they've gained throughout the recent winning streak as they take on the country's premier power program. With 18-22 year olds, confidence can mean everything, so USC should come out pumped up and ready to play in front of a sold out stadium.

(Trevor @Trevor_Wong) Remember the last time College GameDay was at The Coliseum with the Cardinal in town? USC took Stanford to three overtimes before eventually falling. But there wasn't a lot of pressure for that squad to win. The same goes for this year. I don't think anybody expected this Trojans team to be where they're at and performing this well this late in the season, particularly with all that's happened thus far this year. If they can take away anything from their recent three-game winning streak, it's confidence. The offense finally seems to have found an identity and rhythm, Cody Kessler looks more confident and the defense has been solid as they have been throughout the season.

2. Can the Trojans defense slow down the Cardinals rushing game and more importantly, will USC be able to hold its own in the battle on the trenches?

(IT) The four-shouldered threat of Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams is down to one, but this defense is as persistent in their inexplicably relentless attack as they were in their "renowned" beginning of 2013. This unit will be hungry enough to keep this a competitive football game at home. What I am more curious about is our own offensive line. Cody Kessler's recent performances have emulated those of an Alex Smith or a Jim Harbaugh quarterback - efficient and present when needed - and his statistics (along with the ground game) credit enhanced protection. Without resorting to quick bubble screen releases yet again, let's see how far emotion carries us, or how sincere these improvements actually are.

(Shotgun) This is the question of the weekend. Stanford wins games by bludgeoning teams with power and tremendous technique in the trenches. While I think the USC defense can slow down Stanford's rushing attack and force Kevin Hogan to try to beat them, I don't think the offensive line is going to be able to open up enough holes for the running game to be as successful as it has been recently. The Cardinal just dominated a very good Oregon offensive line that I think is better than our line, especially with Walker and Graf constantly being dinged.

(Trevor) That's probably the biggest question going into this game. The final score of the Stanford-Oregon game didn't really indicate how much the Cardinal really dominated the Ducks up front on both sides of the ball. But the last two performances for the Trojans at Oregon State and at Cal is a positive sign that they might be up to the task. If USC can make the Stanford offense one dimensional and make Kevin Hogan throw the ball 30 to 40 times, it'll stand a good chance at winning.

3. How would you assess the Orgeron era to this point and should Pat Haden given him the job if USC were to pull off the upset over Stanford?

(IT) I'm not convinced that this is as black-and-white as "win and you're hired - lose and you're fired". At worst, Coach O has been a brilliant bandage desperately manufactured from random household objects before this offseason's visit to the hospital. At best, he truly reinstalled confidence, simplicity, and passion in this roster, and the players haven't appeared to respond this well since Pete Carroll. Once more, it's a nothing-left-to-lose campaign that may or may not rewrite the lost cause branding from Week 5, but Orgeron undoubtedly deserves an interview.

(Shotgun) The Orgeron Era to this point is a resounding success. If the Trojans had a consistent (and I don't mean consistently missing) kicker, 'Coach O' would have an unblemished record. He has the team playing to its potential and with a fire that was missing while Kiffin was leading the team. Plus, it seems that Orgeron is growing each and every week at the helm, which is always a positive trait.

(Trevor) Ed Orgeron has done a fantastic job. The last three games have shown a steady improvement as a team, where both sides of the ball are playing well. Even with all the injuries, he's found a way to make use of every player on the roster to help contribute, whether that be a seldom used walk-on player or the running backs nobody saw play under Lane Kiffin (see Ty Isaac and Javorius Allen). Should USC pull off the upset over Stanford, I think you really have to start considering Orgeron as a candidate for the head coaching gig. After all, the kids love playing for him and you just can't replace something like that overnight. Why bother having three coaches in less than one year?