Stanford vs. USC has seem to go down to the wire in recent years. Last year's 13-10 game was ugly. Stanford struggled in their 2015 opener, losing 16-6 to Northwestern. After bouncing back with a 31-7 victory over UCF las Saturday, the Cardinal come to the Coliseum on Saturday and open up Pac-12 play. We talked to Tony Fernandes from Rule of Tree about this year's matchup.
1) After a tough loss to open up the season, Stanford rebounded by beating UCF 31-7 at home last Saturday. However, the running game struggled for the second consecutive week, what is wrong with what used to be the strength of the Stanford offense in the past?
This question has been raised a lot over the past 2 weeks. Coach Shaw and I agree that it is all about execution. Too many mistakes on the offensive line, and players are not getting off the ball quick enough. Sophomore Christian McCaffrey has had a few long runs called back due to penalties; and at times against Northwestern, the Cardinal did not check down when the Wildcats had 7 and 8 in the box. In running the ball, it all boils down to execution.
2) Kevin Hogan bounced back against UCF, throwing three touchdowns but it’s anyone’s guess on who will step up and be the #1 receiver for the Cardinal? Who should the Trojans keep an eye out for on Saturday?
Kevin has been with the Cardinal for 5 years now; he has seen the good, bad, and ugly on the Farm. What is needed most from him is his leadership. He needs to take control of the offense more, and show why he has been the leader under center for 4 seasons. I would agree as there really has been no clear #1 receiver as seniors Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector have not distanced themselves from the pack as of yet. Both players are solid receivers, but need to work on separation from the defendors and making sure that catching the ball first is the main priority. I would always say that the main guy to watch on the field at all times is Sophomore Christian McCaffrey. The young man has great hands out of the backfield, and is a threat to break a big play at any moment.
3) How should the Stanford defense plan to slow down the Trojans offense?
Hope that QB Cody Kessler and WR JuJu Smith don’t show up. Seriously though, for Stanford to have any chance against the Trojans attack, they will have to get pressure from DL’s Brennan Scarlett and Azziz Shittu up the middle, and try to get in Kessler’s face the whole game. Stanford does have a solid defense, but are replacing 9 starters from last year’s squad. It will all boil down to clock management, and keeping that vaunted Trojans offense from making the big platys.
4) Christian McCaffrey is doing it all for the Cardinal through two games (kick and punt returns, lines up in the backfield and in the slot), Is McCaffrey the next Ty Montgomery?
I see Christian McCaffrey as the next Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola. He has great hands out of the backfield, is quick off the ball, and has the ability to make a big play at a moments notice. McCaffrey is not afraid to take the big hit, and with a little more meat added onto his bones, can make himself into a Swiss Army style athlete at the next level.
5) Saturday’s game is going to be physical, score prediction?
In the words of the famous wrestling announcer Jim Ross, it will be a slobber knocker. Two teams with contrasting styles locking horns in the national spotlight. I think that USC has too much firepower for the Cardinal, but it will be a close score. My prediction is that Cody Kessler makes a big play near the end and the Trojans win at home 23-20 in a tightly contested match-up.
For all your Stanford information, head over to Rule of Tree, where they provide excellent coverage.