(5) Stanford (8-1) at USC (7-3)|
Saturday, November 16, 8 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The suddenly resurgent USC Trojans get to prove their for real,
when the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal come to the City of Angels for a Pac-12
showdown under the lights at the Coliseum.
Riding high off an impressive win is Stanford, which dispatched Oregon 26-20,
at home last Thursday night. It was the second straight year that the Cardinal
have managed to end the Ducks' perfect season and likely any hopes of a
national title bid. The now 8-1 Cardinal are in the driver's seat in the
"It's November. We talked as a team about it's time to play our best
football," Stanford head coach David Shaw said, while adding that there is
still plenty of work to do. "We can't be satisfied with just one win. We've
got to win in November."
Stanford's win over Oregon was its third straight and pushed the Cardinal back
into the top five nationally as well as into a select group that is just
waiting for Florida State, Baylor and Ohio State to slip up for a chance at
the BCS Championship game.
Though USC is not on the same level as the Cardinal, the Trojans certainly
have a ton of momentum themselves. A 62-28 stomping of California in Berkeley
last weekend was the team's third straight victory. Even better for interim
head coach Ed Orgeron, it was the fourth in five tries since he took over for
the fired Lane Kiffin. The recent surge has the Trojans at 7-3 overall and
suddenly knocking on the door of the Top 25.
"I wanted them to just start believing in each other first. Believe in each
other and have fun in practice, and that's something that leads to winning,"
Orgeron said about his approach. "I really believe in this team and these
young men. Regardless of who we play, regardless of the circumstances, we're
going to play as a team."
USC went toe-to-toe with Stanford last year but still came away with a 21-14
loss. The win was the fourth straight and fifth in the last six meetings for
Stanford. However, USC has been in control of the all-time series historically
with a 58-29-3 record.
The Cardinal's gameplan against Oregon was simple - give the ball to Tyler
Gaffney. Stanford executed that strategy to perfection in the win as Gaffney
had a program record 45 carries in the contest. Gaffney has been the next in
line for the Cardinal, who have relied heavily on workhorse running backs in
recent memory. Gaffney has joined the ranks of such players as Stepfan Taylor
and Toby Gerhart. He has rushed for 1,043 yards and 13 touchdowns on 211
carries. That is the third most in the Pac-12. Gaffney proved against Oregon
that he can still be effective while taking a beating as he finished with 157
yards and a touchdown to help slay the Ducks. However, he is listed as
questionable for Saturday's game. Anthony Wilkerson (232 yards, TD) is the
With Gaffney leading the charge the Cardinal has been an extremely balanced
offensive team. While they are averaging a healthy 31.9 points per game, the
Cardinal are putting up less than 390 yard of total offense each week with 205
coming on the ground and 183 through the air.
Kevin Hogan has been the steady hand at quarterback. Hogan hasn't been asked
to carry the team much this season but he has done a solid job in keeping the
Cardinal offense humming. Hogan has thrown for 1,596 yards and 13 touchdowns
on 60.5 percent passing and his five interceptions show how careful he has
been with the ball. Hogan had just seven completions and 103 yards passing
When Hogan has had to make plays he has heavily favored Ty Montgomery. The
junior wide receiver has been by far the biggest threat in the passing game.
Montgomery leads the team in receptions (41), yards (639) and touchdowns
Stanford's dedication and major strength is on defense. The Cardinal are
holding teams to just 348.8 yards and 19.4 points per game. They are
especially strong against the run where they are allowing a Pac-12 best 3.2
yards per carry. Pac-12 sacks leader Trent Murphy (10 sacks) is a major reason
the Cardinal create so much pressure. Shayne Skov (72 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 3.5
sacks) is another ferocious defender in the front seven.
Clearly the USC offense will have quite a challenge ahead of it. USC is among
the bottom half of the Pac-12 in both total yards (4-2.6 ypg) and points per
Hogan's counterpart this week is Cody Kessler, who didn't need to do much last
week. Kessler threw for 170 yards and two scores, completing 14-of-17 pass
attempts, but the play of the Trojans' special teams meant he did not need
to throw as often. Kessler has been solid this year, just like Hogan, as he is
completing 64.3 percent of his passes for 1,977 yards and 12 touchdowns to
only six interceptions. Kessler has been sacked 20 times but he has also
connected on better than 80 percent of his pass attempts in each of the last
A look at Nelson Agholor's receiving numbers from last week (four receptions,
35 yards) might lead you to believe he was ineffective. That could not be
farther from the truth as the team's leading receiver proved how dangerous he
can be on special teams by returning two punts for touchdowns. The Trojans
tied a NCAA record with three returns for touchdowns, the other coming off a
block. Agholor (36 receptions, 647 yards, three TDs) has made plays in the
passing game as well. Marqise Lee (38 receptions, 521 yards, two TDs) has
not been playing at the same level as a year ago when he won the Biletnikoff
Award, but has still been a steady presence.
Javorius Allen has rushed for at least 130 yards and two scores in each of
the last two weeks as leading rusher Tre Madden (671 yards, three TDs) has
been dealing with a leg injury. Madden is expected to miss Saturday's game,
which means Allen has the difficult task of trying to produce against the
stout Stanford defense. Silas Redd has also been a competent option in the
Just like Stanford, USCc is a team that thinks defense first, or at least it
has under Orgeron. The Trojans are second in the Pac-12 in total defense (339
ypg) and third in points allowed (19.6 ppg). USC has also been a team that
excels in getting pressure as it is tied with Stanford for second in the
conference in sacks (30). Devon Kennard (8.0 sacks) and Leonard Williams (5.0
sacks) are the anchors up front, while Josh Shaw is one of three players with
three interceptions for the Trojans.
Now that Stanford has dispatched of Oregon it has its destiny back in its
hands. Shaw is a coach that preaches discipline so it is unlikely he will let
his team slip up once again. The Stanford defense was at another level against
Oregon and if the unit plays that well on Saturday it won't matter if the
Cardinal are on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 24, USC 13
11/14 16:06:21 ET