USC and Stanford start their run at the Pac 12 title early this year, as they are set to square off in Week 2 of the college football season at the Coliseum. USC is coming off of a win against a Western Michigan team that stayed in the game up until the fourth quarter, before the Trojans ultimately held them off with a 49-31 victory. Stanford is coming off a bye week after absolutely crushing Rice 62-7 in a game that was played in Australia. They put on a clinic in almost every facet of the game versus the Owls. The winner will certainly be in the driver’s seat for the top seed for the Pac 12 title race, making this game our #1 matchup of the weekend.
In last years game, Stanford beat the Trojans in their home stadium in Palo Alto, holding USC to just one touchdown in a 27-10 victory. USC will certainly be looking to get revenge on their home turf, but it is going to take a lot more than just 10 points to come away with a W this year. Stanford has a lot of talented players at the skill positions. One in particular that the Trojans will have to have a game plan for is junior RB Bryce Love.
Love had just 13 carries in the opener against Rice, but what he did with those 13 carries was extremely impressive. He had 180 yards rushing and 1 TD, giving him an average of 13.8 yards per rush. While that average will certainly come down this weekend, it seems that Love can make something out of nothing every time he touches the ball. In 2016 as a sophomore he averaged 7 yards per carry and in his freshman season of 2015 he toted the rock for 7.8 yards per carry. Expect for head coach David Shaw to find plenty of creative ways to get the junior the ball in open space come Saturday. Most fans probably didn’t expect to see it so soon, but Stanford has seemed to have found the perfect replacement for Christian McCaffrey.
Although it seemed to be the offense that stole the show for the Cardinals in Australia, the defense did their part as well. Even though it was just Rice in their opener, the Stanford defense still held them to just 241 total yards and one touchdown. The defensive line might have some troubles in containing Ronald Jones II, but the matchup that we are most interested in seeing is USC QB Sam Darnold vs arguably the best secondary in the Pac 12 of Stanford. They have cornerback Quenton Meeks, son of San Diego Charger’s secondary coach Ron Meeks, and safety Justin Reid, who is the younger brother of the 49ers safety Eric Reid. Football runs in their blood, and they will look to create their own path starting this Saturday.
The Trojans will certainly be looking to do better offensively than they did last season against the Cardinals, as Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones are determined to not let that happen again. Darnold is a Heisman leading candidate and one of the nation’s top NFL QB prospects. His presence in the pocket certainly shows it. Although he threw 2 interceptions and 0 touchdowns in their opener he still completed 22 of 33 passes, a percentage just shy of 70%, for a total of 289 yards. The sophomore QB will be looking to redeem himself this weekend and find his first taste of pay dirt against one of their archrivals.
Darnold’s favorite target of last weekend, junior WR Deontay Burnett, had a heck of a game to start the season with 7 receptions for 142 yards, for an average of over 20 yards per reception. Burnett’s career average per reception is 12.7 yards, so expect to see Darnold throw his way on third and long situations. This kid is extremely speedy and has a knack for making his way into open space.
Ronald Jones II will be the leader on the ground, as he carried the ball 18 times for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns in their win against Western Michigan. Stanford defenders will have to fly around the field to try and corral him, as it seems one defender is never enough to bring him down. Don’t dare try to arm tackle this kid, because he will slice through it with ease. Backing up the talented junior is Five-star freshman phenom Stephen Carr. Carr also got a portion of the running game last weekend as he carried the ball 7 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns. One of those carries was an impressive 59 yard touchdown run that ended up being the longest player from scrimmage for the Trojans. Carr is an absolute beast. Expect to see plenty of him as well as Jones II this upcoming weekend. He is on our freshman All-American watch list for the 2017 season.
USC seemed to have struggled on the defensive line in week one, as they were bullied around by a Western Michigan line that may be a tad underrated. WMU averaged over 5 yards per carry in week one and USC will certainly have to tighten that up against a talented Stanford running game. We expect for the Trojan’s secondary led by Iman Marshall and Jack Jones to hold Stanford QB Keller Chryst to a respectable amount of yards, but they will have to play smarter in week 2. Both players played well against their week 1 opponents, but had unnecessary penalties that kept drives alive. That cannot happen against a potent Stanford offense.
Stanford has gotten the better of USC in 7 of the last 9 games, including 4 out of the last 5 games that were played in Pasadena. We predict Stanford to keep that trend going, pulling off a 34-28 victory. Stanford’s offense will be too much for the Trojans to handle, and Bryce Love will show why he should be a household name by season’s end.