The first big game of the Pac-12 this season comes in the form of #14 ranked USC coming to play against #13 Stanford at Palo Alto, with a lot of focus on the previous animosity between the two head coaches and the very interesting match-up we’re bound to see between the Trojans pass rush and the Cardinal rebuilding offensive line.
USC haven’t won a game against Stanford on the road since 2006. They’ve lost five of the last seven meetings altogether, but managed to ruin things for Stanford last season, coming into the Coliseum as the number 5 team in the nation, a loss that derailed their national championship hopes and landed them once again “just” in the Rose Bowl, which they lost to MIchigan State.
Steve Sarkisian is going to be on the sidelines for the Trojans for the second time, but a first in a Pac-12 game. During his five seasons with Washington, his teams pulled off just one win against the Cardinal, which happened to be against Shaw. Last season, he blamed Stanford players for faking injuries in order to halt the hurry-up offense late in the game, but both he and Shaw are claiming the incident is behind them.
A lot of focus has been given to the Stanford offensive line, returning just one starter in left tackle Andrus Peat. He’s going to try and stop Leonard Williams, who had a very big game in the opening win against Fresno State, which included an interception, 7 tackles, and almost constantly getting behind the line of scrimmage to reach and hit the quarterback.
Peat has younger players next to him protecting Kevin Hogan and the running game which drove forward for 142 yards, but it was only UC Davis, so Shaw himself wasn’t too impressed with the effort or the execution. Hogan threw one interception as well, and there’s no doubt that at least from the outside, it seems like Stanford are going into this game a little bit less confident than in years past.
USC seem to have gotten over their injury scare to quarterback Cody Kessler who completed four touchdown passes against Fresno State, throwing for 394 yards. No quarterback battle for him this year, Kessler had some toe injury that took him off practice during this week, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone concerned about that anymore. It’s just about getting USC to the top of the Pac-12 again, which comes with consistency, but also pulling off big wins like the one they might have at Stanford.