Stanford will try to defeat USC in the Pac-12 championship game for the second time in three seasons when the No. 15 Cardinal meet the No. 9 Trojans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night. Stanford has won eight of its past nine following a 38-20 victory against No. 17 Notre Dame on Saturday, and USC has won four straight for the second time this season.
These teams met Sept. 9 in Los Angeles and the Trojans played one of their best games of the season, piling up 623 total yards in a 42-24 victory inside the Coliseum. USC quarterback Sam Darnold completed 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns, and led the Trojans on six touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer. Stanford’s go-to player continues to be running back Bryce Love, who had 160 rushing yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown in the first meeting, one of 10 games with at least 100 yards rushing this season. USC will see a different quarterback as sophomore K.J. Costello replaced senior Keller Chryst four games ago and is coming off his best performance, throwing for 176 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions against the Fighting Irish.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: USC -4
ABOUT STANFORD (9-3): The Trojans will have their hands full trying to block senior Harrison Phillips, who leads all FBS defensive tackles with 16.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks. The Cardinal also have a dependable secondary led by strong safety Justin Reid, the conference’s co-leader in interceptions with five, including one against the Trojans earlier this season. Reid displayed his versatility against Notre Dame, totaling nine tackles (three solo), a sack and a pass breakup.
ABOUT USC (10-2): The Trojans will also have a somewhat different look than the last meeting against Stanford as the leading rusher from that game, Stephen Carr, hasn’t bounced back from a four-game absence in October because of a foot injury. Carr has appeared in two games since his return, but totaled only 12 rushing yards on four carries and caught three passes for 59 yards. Ronald Jones II has flourished as the No. 1 back for USC, especially in the past four games, combining for 674 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in that span.
1. The South Division is 0-6 in the Pac-12 championship game.
2. Stanford has won seven of the past 10 games against USC.
3. This is the fourth consecutive season the Trojans have played in an NFL stadium.
PREDICTION: Stanford 28, USC 27