No. 14 Stanford (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) at No. 6 USC (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
Laura Anderson: Stanford 27, USC 21
I hesitate to use Stanford’s 62-7 trouncing of Rice and USC’s tough win over Western Michigan as barometers for this upcoming matchup. The Cardinal ground game looked unstoppable against one of the worst run defenses in the country, with Bryce Love rushing for 180 yards on 13 carries, but the team will face a tougher test in the Trojans. While Stanford will rely heavily on Love and the run game, Keller Chryst needs to play a solid game against USC, converting on third downs and connecting on play-action opportunities to spread the defense. Chryst doesn’t need to outmatch Sam Darnold for the Cardinal to take the win, but options to Trenton Irwin and Connor Wedington, who made six catches for 82 yards in his collegiate debut, will poke holes in the Trojan defense and allow for a more effective rushing game. Darnold is dangerous for USC, but I think the game will come down to defense. At this point in the year, the Cardinal defensive line is stronger than that of USC. If Stanford can make some key stops against Darnold, the combination of a strong rush and Chryst managing passing opportunities should be enough for a closely fought win.
Matthew Gutwald: Stanford 31, USC 27
As is so often the case in this matchup, the winner will be decided on the line of scrimmage. USC displayed an inability to stop the run game of Western Michigan, totaling 263 yards. The Trojan front seven appeared defeated and uninspired to line up against the Broncos. With this being said, Stanford’s offensive line should be able to impose their will in the run game and open up some holes for Bryce Love. However, a big challenge will lie in protecting the passer. Rice was able to pressure Keller Chryst and force him to rush passes and make some questionable throws. You can expect USC to throw every blitz they can at Chryst and call Stanfords bluff on the quarterbacks readiness to play. This forces throws to an intriguing wideout group that features two talented true freshmen, a recovering J.J. Arcega Whiteside and a reliable Trent Irwin. The group will be covered by arguably one of the best defensive backfields in the Pac-12, leaving a matchup to watch for. The Trojans defensive pressure will leave Chryst looking to the tight end position for quick passes down the middle to stop the blitzing and open up the outside. On defense, I do not buy the Heisman hype of Sam Darnold with so many inexperienced receivers around him. The talented defensive backfield should have minimal issues and look to cause turnovers. I feel that most of the defenses burden will fall on the shoulders of Harrison Phillips to eat blocks and leave the linebacker corps free to make tackles. Expect a steady dose of the ground game and for the defense to hold just long enough to get the Cardinal out of the Coliseum with a victory.
Jose Saldana: Stanford 28, USC 24
Stanford should matchup favorably against the USC. Obviously, the Trojans defense allowed a ton of rushing yards to Western Michigan, but I think that game will serve as bit of a wake-up call to their rush defense. I expect USC to put all its resources in stopping the forces by putting numbers in the box to limit Bryce Love’s and Cameron Scarlett’s chances for big runs down the middle. This means quarterback Keller Chryst will have to step up and not make mistakes in the passing game. Chryst has not played a team of USC’s caliber before and this game will show whether he can handle signal calling duties against good teams. Ultimately, for Stanford’s offense to be successful, the offensive line needs to perform well. Early last season, the line was a disaster for the offense, but this year, Stanford head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren have found the combinations of players that works. The line has a lot of talent and if it can push around the USC defenders, then the passing and running game will operate just fine.
On the other side of the ball, the Stanford defense can exploit USC’s offensive line. The line didn’t look good against Western Michigan’s defense front and with Harrison Phillips leading the way, Sam Darnold might be pressured into bad throws to Stanford’s excellent secondary.
USC has an incredibly talented offense which will keep the Trojans in the game. The Cardinal can take advantage of the USC’s defense and cause enough turnovers from the USC offense to just pull out the victory.