After a 45-7 victory over Utah State on Saturday, the USC Trojan football team now faces another huge test as they head up to northern California to face the reigning Pac-12 champions, the Stanford Cardinal. The Trojans last visit to The Farm was a 13-10 victory back in 2014 against a much different Stanford team.
The Trojans face a tough Stanford team that is coming off of a bye week after a 26-13 home win over Kansas State during opening weekend. Running back Christian McCaffrey is back after his All-American season to lead Stanford as the front runners in the conference. McCaffrey had 210 all-purpose yards in the victory and was backed by a strong defense that only allowed one touchdown.
USC showed some life on offense this past week as they were able to get the ball to their playmakers on the outside. Juju Smith-Schuster caught two touchdown catches and Steven Mitchell caught one as well. Adoree’ Jackson had a highlight reel punt return for a touchdown which also helped seal the deal. For the Trojans to have a chance at beating Stanford they will need there playmakers play big (especially if they cannot find a way to contain McCaffrey’s explosiveness).
USC started Max Browne but in a number of red zone packages and the entire fourth quarter, Sam Darnold was the signal caller. Both threw two touchdowns a piece as Coach Clay Helton plans to use both quarterbacks in the near future.
Stanford started Ryan Burns at quarterback and he played very well throughout the game despite being replaced by Keller Chryst so that David Shaw could evaluate both players. Burns was 14 for 18 for 156 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Despite good ball management by Burns and the explosive plays by McCaffrey, the offense only managed 70 yards in the second half and three first downs.
Though the USC defense had it easy this week, Stanford will impose a greater threat than Utah State. When both teams faced each other in last year’s Pac-12 championship game, McCaffrey ran all over the Trojans as he piled up a school record 461 all-purpose yards to help lead the Cardinal to 41-22 victory. He will obviously provide a lot of attention not only on defense but special teams as well. This will definitely be a battle in trenches as USC has shown to struggle against the run in recent games. Holding Utah State to 49 yards on 26 attempts should have be a confidence booster but Stanford and Christian McCaffrey will be a much bigger test.
A very big key this week, will be if the Trojans can stay disciplined against a very well coached and fundamentally sound Stanford team. For the second week in a row, a USC player, offensive lineman Chuma Edoga, was ejected after making contact with an official. Even though Chuma will not be missing any time for his actions in the next game, this will raise are a lot of question marks on the program about how disciplined these players are.
The USC run game was another aspect that came alive in week 2 which was led by Justin Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware. These two backs were very physical running through the tackles as they combined for 127 yards and a touchdown. Running the football against a tough Stanford front seven will definitely help out Max Browne and open up the passing game.
If USC plans to get back to the Pac-12 title game, they will need to play an amazing all-around game against Stanford. They have proven themselves in the past that they can go to Palo Alto and win but with the odds stacked heavily against the Trojans, this game will have to be near flawless.
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