USC and Stanford have played in some classic games that has been a joy or frustration to both programs. This Saturday the Trojans and Cardinal will once again meet to open Pac-12 conference play. Before we get to Saturday, we’ll take a look back at 5 memorable USC and Stanford games in recent history.
2013: A Historic Night
The late season 2013 clash between USC and Stanford was a classic that’s still talked about to this day. Coming into this game the Trojans were being led by then interim head coach Ed Orgeron following the firing of Lane Kiffin earlier in the season. Stanford on the other hand was ranked No. 4 in the nation and coming off a home victory over then No. 3 Oregon. They also owned a four game winning streak over the Trojans which was the highest they’ve ever had in the series.
USC played one of their best games that season and left everything out on the field. The Trojans built up a 17-7 lead midway through the 2nd quarter before the Cardinal scored 10 unanswered. Hitting a field goal in the second quarter and scoring the lone touchdown in the third to tie it at 17. Stanford would drive down the field and threaten to score, however a couple of late interceptions by Dion Bailey and Su’a Cravens kept them off the board. Key moment came on a 4th and 2 where USC opted to go for it and try to win the game. quarterback Cody Kessler hit Marqise Lee for 13 yards to continue to game winning drive. A few plays later kicker Andre Hedari would nail the game winning field to seal the upset over No. 4 Stanford and knock them out of the national championship picture. USC fans, coaches, and players celebrated on the field on a night that went down in Trojan football history.
2014: Andre Hedari strikes again
The following season would see the two teams open Pac-12 play against each other in Palo Alto. This year USC was led by head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was hired after a 5 year stint with the Washington Huskies. Both teams came into the match up ranked in the top 25 with Stanford looking to avenge their loss to USC the previous year. A loss that knocked them out of the National Championship race.
The game would be a low scoring affair with the game coming down to a field goal battle between the two. Only two touchdowns would be scored in this game. With 2:30 left in the 4th quarter, USC kicker Andre Hedari would nail another critical field goal against Stanford to put the them up 13-10. The ensuing drive Stanford moved the ball into field goal position and threatening to score. USC defensive end J.R. Tavi would get a sack on Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, forcing him to fumble and leading to linebacker Scott Felix to recover the fumble and preserve another thrilling victory over the Cardinal. The win would be their first in Palo Alto since 2009.
2007: The biggest upset in College Football
2007 would become a weird year for top ranked teams in college football. USC came into the season ranked No. 2 in the nation and looked to be a shoe in for the BCS National Championship game if they got through the Pac-10. Stanford on the other hand was led by Jim Harbaugh and entered the match up with a 1-3 record. USC was a 41 point favorite over the Cardinal and was riding a 35 game winning streak at the Coliseum.
The Trojans started off the first half slow by taking a 9-0 lead into the half thanks to a blocked PAT. Stanford cut into the Trojans lead in the 3rd quarter after USC quarterback John David Booty’s pass was picked off by Cardinal cornerback Austin Yancy and returned for a touchdown to make it 9-7. Soon after the Trojans score following a touchdown pass to USC tight end Fred Davis. The Fourth quarter Stanford would find themselves back in the game. Defining moment came with the Cardinal down 23-17. Facing 4th and 20 Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard would complete a pass to then wide receiver Richard Sherman to keep the drive alive. Few plays later facing a fourth and goal, Pritchard would connect with Mark Bradford on an end zone fade for a touchdown to put Stanford up 24-23. USC’s game winning drive would come up short following a second John David Booty pick giving Stanford the shocking victory in Los Angeles.
The victory would catapult the Stanford program moving forward under Harbaugh. It would be considered the biggest upset from a point spread standpoint and in college football history.
2009: What’s Your Deal?
2009 meeting would feature another shocking result, however it wasn’t from a close game standpoint. USC came into the game following a sloppy and narrow game against the Arizona State Sun Devils and looking to regain some mojo after being blown out by Oregon on Halloween night. Stanford came into the game ranked No. 25 in the nation and led by the backfield of quarterback Andrew Luck and heisman candidate/running back Toby Gerhart. Stanford got off to a quick start in the first quarter going up 14-0 on the Trojans. By halftime Stanford faced a 21-7 lead over USC, a result that nobody thought they would see.
USC would push to get back into the game, but the Cardinal offense would keep scoring. Down 35-21 with the Trojans driving in the 4th quarter, Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman would make another big play against the Trojans, this time picking off Matt Barkley and returning it for a 42 yard touchdown to put them up 42-21. Stanford would score once again, however Jim Harbaugh elected to go for two to get to 50 points on the Trojans. Stanford would defeat USC 55-21, making it the largest margin of defeat the Trojans suffered under Pete Carroll. It was the largest margin of victory for Stanford over USC EVER.
After the game Pete Carroll would confront Jim Harbaugh following a hand shake asking “What’s Your deal” and Harbaugh answering with the same question. This would mark the last time the two would coach against each other in college football.
2017: Pac-12 Championship Game
USC and Stanford met for the second time during the 2017-18 season, this time for the Pac-12 Championship. The Trojans defeated the Cardinal handedly in the first meeting and was looking to capture another win for the conference championship. While USC captured the south division just three weeks before the championship game, Stanford captured the north on the last week of conference play thanks to a Washington victory over Washington State in the Apple Cup.
USC led by Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones II built up as many as a 10 point lead, however Stanford would follow up with another score to cut the lead right back down to three. The tide turned when the Cardinal drove down inside the USC 6 and threatening to take the lead. The USC defense would have the biggest four downs of the season. Stanford was stopped three consecutive times to bring up a 4th and goal at the Trojans 1. USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu would tackle Stanford running back Cameron Scarlett a yard short of the goal line to force a turnover on downs and completing the goal line stand. Thanks to a Darnold to Michael Pittman Jr. 54 yard gain, USC would score once more to put the Trojans up by 10 once again. After a late Stanford score, USC got the ball back and managed to run the clock out to capture the Pac-12 Championship. Their first since the conference expanded in 2011.
The win would also be USC’s first conference title since 2008 when they won the Pac-10 under Pete Carroll.