As USC prepares for another epic battle with the Stanford Cardinal, here are some keys to victory:
Stop Contain Christian McCaffrey:
Listen, Christian McCaffrey is going to have over 200 total yards against the Trojans. It’s going to happen. He is one of the best (if not the best) players in the nation and he will have a good game. But if USC can contain him which they did do in their first matchup against Stanford last year (McCaffrey had his third lowest yards per carry average of the season against the Trojans), USC will have success. Remember, Cameron Smith did not play in the Pac-12 Title Game and I am not saying McCaffrey wouldn't have had the game he did but Smith makes a huge difference. USC’s game plan needs to be a group-wide effect such as if McCaffrey gets the ball on a toss play, the Trojans defenders need to stay in their lanes and force McCaffrey to the sidelines. Also, unless Stanford has a 3rd and very short play and it’s a pass play, USC should not press McCaffrey because he will win 90% of those matchups. Give up the small yards to McCaffrey and not the big plays.
Open Up the Playbook:
USC was very conservative in their play-calling against Utah State, both on offense and defense. Now, as they prepare to face Stanford, USC should really open up the playbook against Stanford. That means deep passes, reverses, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II both on the field for the same plays, and so on. On defense, USC defense coordinator Clancy Pendergast should bring different blitz schemes to try and get the Cardinal offense off their rhythm.
Do not Panic!! if Stanford has an early lead:
This is a big key. If Stanford jumps out to a 10-0 lead, USC can’t panic and abandon their play-calling to catch up as quick as possible. The Trojans need to stick to their game plan and get those points back over time. If the Trojans are down 10 and all they start doing is throwing from the shotgun with 5 WR, Stanford will win the game with ease.
Fight Physicality with Physicality:
Stanford is a physical team. Their O-Line and D-Line groups are always one of the best units in the nation and they win the game in the trenches 9/10 times. USC’s lines need to fight back and I would LOVE to see the energy and passion from USC’s O-line that came in the fourth quarter against UCLA last year. Communication is going to be key for this and I believe the Trojans can get it done.
What are your keys to the game? Comment below.