Last Saturday, true freshman quarterback JT Daniels led the Trojans to victory in his first game at the Coliseum. Tomorrow, he will play his first away game as he faces a much more difficult task against No. 10 ranked Stanford. Daniels cannot afford the slow start he had last week, especially on the road in a hostile environment. If he comes out the gate playing like he did in the second half of the UNLV game, he may just lead the Trojans to a 2-0 start to the season.
Analyzing JT Daniels
USC fans will hope this game has a similar outcome to Matt Barkley’s second career game. In 2009, Barkley led the Trojans to a 2-0 start after defeating Ohio State in Columbus, an unprecedented feat for a true freshman quarterback. For JT Daniels to do the same at Stanford, he will need to be sharp, poised, and confident. He has an incredible arm and moves around the pocket well, but his decision making will be crucial as momentum plays a key role in deciding away games in college football.
For Daniels to take care of the football, he will need to spread the ball around. He must not get fixated on passing to one receiver, a habit many young quarterbacks develop at all levels. He has weapons in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and running backs Stephen Carr and Aca’Cedric Ware. Clay Helton and USC would be smart to activate the run game early to open the passing game for Daniels to do work. It is difficult to predict how these young players will perform in their first true conference test, but the players should be excited for the opportunity nonetheless. As football generally does, this game will likely come down to turnovers, but it is imperative that the Trojans start the game better than they did against UNLV, especially when you evaluate Stanford’s exceptional offense.
Analyzing KJ Costello
Last week, the Stanford Cardinal cruised to 31-10 victory over San Diego State at home. Led by Junior quarterback KJ Costello, the Cardinal offense put up a total of four touchdowns, all through the air. Sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson hauled in a touchdown, while senior wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a monster day with six receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns. It is clear that Costello has both weapons and big-playmaking ability. Although he threw an interception, Costello’s offensive line bought him lots of time to work with in the pocket against San Diego State. This allowed him to utilize his arm strength, which might not be NFL talent, but it is certainly powerful in the NCAA.
Overall, Stanford’s offense simply over-matched SDSU, evident on Parkinson’s touchdown when the 6-foot-7 tight end overwhelmed a SDSU defensive back in the end zone. If USC is going to win this game, the defense cannot allow Costello to enjoy as much time in the pocket as he had last week. They will also have their hands full with Stanford running back Bryce Love, a potential Heisman candidate who scored 19 touchdowns for the Cardinal last year, but it will be very interesting to see if Parkinson can replicate his impressive performance against San Diego State.