USC and Stanford will meet for their annual rivalry game at the L.A. Coliseum. The No. 23 ranked Cardinal is coming off a 17-7 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats, however they will also be without starting quarterback K.J. Costello and offensive tackle Walker Little. We are joined by Jack Blanchat from Rule of Tree to discuss the Stanford side of things and learn more about this season’s Cardinal team.
1) With K.J. Costello out, what do you expect Stanford’s offensive approach to be against USC and does this change their game plan against the Trojans defense?
I think Stanford will play much more of a ball-control offense, running frequently, limiting their shots at big plays, and limiting Davis Mills’ chances of getting exposed to the Trojans’ d-line. KJ’s arm and experience would make me think that they’d throw the ball a lot, but I doubt that David Shaw is willing to have Mills throw too much.
2) What can we expect from Davis Mills coming into Saturday?
Mills had some nice throws, but didn’t connect on a lot last Saturday. He lost two fumbles on bizarre zone read plays. He wasn’t super accurate, and missed a few chances for big plays. I expect Shaw to limit his exposure in the pocket, throwing a lot of quick passes, screens, and run plays. Basically, I think Shaw will try and keep Mills on a short leash unless he’s really playing great.
3) Another big blow to the Stanford offense came from the Line with Walker Little also being ruled out. How do Stanford intend to replace him and how does that factor into the Cardinal offensive scheme.
True freshman Walter Rouse is now slated to play left tackle, and he seemed to play okay last week - but this is obviously a much different week. Stanford seemed to run a lot of zone run scheme systems and tried to offer Mills some max protect packages when he threw downfield, so I would expect a similar approach. Whether or not it’s effective is TBD.
4) Stanford’s defense looked solid against Northwestern last week. Who are some key names on that side of the ball that Trojan fans should look out for?
First and foremost, I have to mention All-American candidate Paulson Adebo. He’s a true lockdown corner, and Northwestern tested him at their own peril last weekend. He’s the best corner Stanford has had in a long time, and he takes some pressure off a pretty young Cardinal defense. Other than that, Casey Toohill is probably the best playmaker on the Stanford defense, and is a capable edge rusher that could cause some trouble on Saturday.
5) What are some of your concerns for this Stanford team heading into Saturday’s game?
Concerns are if the offense completely stalls out without KJ, and if the defense isn’t as good as it looked last week. While beating Northwestern was fine, it didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in me personally.
6) Stanford wins IF ____________________
The Stanford defense plays as well as it did last week, and Mills connects on two or more big plays that turn into points.
7) Okay it’s prediction time, who wins and why?
All that said, I’ll predict Stanford to win this game. I think there’s a high chance this becomes an ugly, low-scoring game, and those are the kinds of games Stanford tends to win. It’s not exactly the most creative analysis in the world, but it’s what I’m gonna run with.