It was the shot heard round the world. Stanford faces 4th down and 20 with time elapsing on the game clock and trailing by 6. Fill-in quarterback Tavita Pritchard drops back and finds Richard Sherman for a 20 yard gain to the USC 9. The Trojans defense tightened, and the Cardinal are again faced with a 4th down, with under a minute to play in the game. With a snap of the ball, it happens, Mark Bradford hauls in a Pritchard pass in the left corner of the end zone, giving a 42 point underdog a road victory against No. 1 USC. That was last year, and the Trojans have had months to think about the collapse that cost them a shot at a BCS championship game appearance. It’s a new year, and a new field, and USC will attempt to do what couldn’t be done in 2007, beat the Stanford Cardinal.
Last week- L-Oregon
Jim Harbaugh’s Cardinal is just one win away from Bowl eligibility, which would be the first time since 2001. USC poses one obstacle on the path, but after defeating the Trojans on the road a year ago, this bunch will be confident and fearless. Tavita Pritchard still commands the offense, but it’s the groundwork that contributes to their success. The Cardinal ranks 17th in the nation in rushing, at an average of 207 yards per game. Toby Gerhart carries the bulk of the load, already amassing over 900 yards this season, and contributing 13 rushing touchdowns. The Stanford defense isn’t threatening against the run or pass, and surrenders an average of nearly 375 yards per game to opponents. The defensive strength would be the pass rush, already recording 29 sacks, at an average of nearly 3 per game.
Last week- W-Cal
A key factor in last year’s upset loss to Stanford was the Trojans’ inability to run the ball consistently. They played with a makeshift offensive line, as injuries began to mount. Some of those young offensive linemen now find themselves in starting roles, with the departure of 4 of the starting 5 to graduation or the NFL last April. The unit immediately squashed all skepticism with outstanding play since the opener against Virginia. They lead a stable of backs featuring Joe Mcknight, C.J. Gable, and Stafon Johnson to average 200 yards per game. They provide solid protection for March Sanchez’ additional 254 yards per contest, in an offense that ranks 12th overall. The defense hasn’t given up an opposing touchdown in more than 10 quarters, enabling USC to outscore their opponents 231-23 in the last 6 games. The Cardinal play into the defensive strength of the Trojans who stingily allow just 77 rushing yards, with only Nevada and TCU allowing less.
Analysis: Although Stanford has been a miserable 1-4 on the road, they are a perfect 4-0 at home. USC is the best road team in the Pac ten, and that fact coupled with the lasting memory of last year’s bitter defeat makes for a massacre in Palo Alto. But keep in mind that Stanford did defeat Oregon State in the season opener, and had more offensive production against Arizona’s defense than the Trojans managed. But looking at common foes is always a poor measure, as all teams will match differently. USC rolls to a big win in this one. But of course, I said the same a year ago.
All Time Series: USC leads 57-25-3
Streak: Stanford won 1