The USC Trojans vs. the Stanford Cardinal for the Pac-12 Conference Championship. It all comes down to this.
Pac 12 North Champions Stanford Cardinal (9-3 overall) (7-2 conf.) vs Pac-12 South Champions USC Trojans (10-2 overall) (8-1 conf.)
Start time: Friday, December 1, 5:00 p.m. PST
Location: Levi’s Stadium - Santa Clara, California
Radio: Tune in
Live Streaming: Watch ESPN
Stanford has the momentum and USC had a desperately needed rest. USC has to get the running game going in order to be successful. In 8 of their 12 games Stanford has allowed more yards per rush than than the opposing teams' average. Against two of the best rushing offenses in the country though (ND and SDSU) the run defense played very well. Last week against the Irish they held the rushing attack to 3.5 yards per attempt against a Note Dame team averaging almost twice that amount per carry.
K.J. Costello is also passing the ball more efficiently, throwing deeper passes and is looking very sharp in the red zone. The USC defense has a huge problem defending longer passes but is one of the best red zone defenses in the country. If Costello could play against USC inside the 40 like he did against Notre Dame then the Cardinal will put up plenty of points regardless of the status of Bryce Love's ankle.
The QB switch also removes much of the blandness and predictability that plagued Stanford in the last meeting. The Stanford defense also has the benefit of hindsight this time around and will focus on taking away the run rather than trying to take away the pass. If they do that expect to see bad Darnold tonight and a Stanford win.
The Stanford coaching staff also is superior to the USC staff so expect Stanford to be better prepared and in a better position to win.
After being ravaged by injuries all season USC is as close to full strength as they have been all season giving Darnold a healthy line and a full compliment of weapons to work with. With his full team finally around him you absolutely cannot discount Sam Darnold's ability to take a game over when he is hot. That has not really happened without the USC rushing attack firing on all cylinders since the Rose Bowl game.
With two run first offenses the number of possessions for each team will be limited. USC is one of the worst teams in turnovers. Only a handful of offenses in the country have given the ball away more than the Trojans. But the USC defense is also one of the best in the country at takeaways which keeps them in games.
Another key stat is penalties. USC is one of the most penalized teams in the nation. This frequently gives opposing offenses free or easy first down or puts the USC offense too far behind the chains to maintain possession. With possessions likely to be crucial, these penalties function effectively as turnovers.
Costello has been playing well as of late but he is still a sophomore and this is still a huge stage. USC also has a monstrous defensive line that creates all sorts of havoc. Expect them to go all out to try and rattle the young QB while taking away running lanes in the process. On the other hand If Love gets past the line of scrimmage, or Costello can get a clean pass off Stanford will probably have a successful play
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