No. 5 USC has lost seven of the last nine meetings in the all-time series but will look to buck that trend when it hosts 14th-ranked Stanford in a Pac-12 matchup on Saturday. Stanford has won three in a row against USC since suffering a 13-10 loss in 2014, with all three wins coming by double digits.
The teams had vastly different experiences in their season-opening victories. The Cardinal traveled to Australia to play Rice on Aug. 26 and won so easily, the starters were able to watch the second half of the 62-7 victory from the sideline. The Trojans didn’t have it so easy in their opener last Saturday, falling into 28-28 tie against visiting Western Michigan midway through the fourth quarter before escaping with a 49-31 win. USC’s most glaring weakness seemed to be its tackling, and that’s an area that must be improved against an even more physical Stanford team.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: USC -6.5
ABOUT STANFORD (1-0): The Cardinal pride themselves on their offensive balance, and running back Bryce Love looked comfortable against the Trojans last season, rushing for 51 yards on 11 carries. Love doesn’t have to share the backfield this season with Christian McCaffrey, the No. 8 overall draft pick of the Carolina Panthers last spring, and should get the chance to play the entire game against USC, so expect 20-25 carries. Love also should relieve some of the pressure on senior quarterback Keller Chryst, who’s 7-0 as a starter at Stanford but still green in many ways.
ABOUT USC (1-0): The Trojans will try for the same type of balance as Stanford, but quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II need to avoid looking desperate for their first career win against the Cardinal. Darnold wasn’t yet the starter when Stanford beat USC last season but moved into that role the following week, and the Trojans have won 10 of 11 since. Jones could be the key if the Trojans’ defense can prevent another shootout, as his workload was limited in the second half against Western Michigan.
1. USC has won 10 straight games against FBS opponents, the nation’s second-longest streak behind Oklahoma (11). Stanford is fifth on that list at seven straight wins.
2. Stanford has made 177 consecutive extra-point attempts dating to Oct. 26, 2013, the third-longest streak in the nation behind Michigan (287) and Memphis (213).
3. Stanford has gained at least 500 yards of total offense and scored at least 40 points in four of its last five games.
PREDICTION: USC 24, Stanford 21