You think Matt Barkley is excited for this game? The man might walk away from the University of Southern California as its most revered player ever, yet he has never beaten the Cardinal. When did that become an acceptable statement? Matt Barkley gave up a spot in the first round of the NFL Draft in order to complete “unfinished business.” You can bet the house that this was on his checklist of goals. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw have built a nice program in a short time, but this is USC. If they truly are the preseason number 1 team, this is a game they must win.
Why to be Excited?
It’s a showdown of two top 25 teams. The beauty of college football is that marquee matchups seem to happen on a weekly basis. The media will not hype this game as much as the darling SEC matchup Florida-Tennessee, but if you want to actually see two really good teams play football, Stanford, California is your spot. As aforementioned, it is not possible for the Trojans to be more hyped for this matchup. If you are not a fifth year senior for USC, you have never beaten Stanford. The first two games were a good watch, but USC has been waiting all off-season for this game. After a triple overtime loss in a game they led late in the fourth quarter, there is one thing that is absolutely certain: the Trojans will be fired up.
Why to be Grouchy?
Uhhhh…The last time USC beat Stanford was November 15th, 2008. It’s been a really long time. In 2007, in perhaps one of the greatest upsets in college football history, Tavita Pritchard’s Cardinal shocked the Trojans in the Coliseum. USC lost starting center Khaled Holmes in last week’s victory at Syracuse. Cryus Hobbi will be counted on, but he is only a redshirt freshman. The strength of the Cardinal team is in its front seven play. Shane Skov and Chase Thomas form the most formidable linebacker duo in at least the PAC-12. Linemen Ben Gardner and Terrance Stephens are excellent players who will be looking to have their way against a USC offensive line missing their best and most important player. Josh Nunes is more than capable of managing an efficient Stanford offensive attack. His focus will be on his gigantic tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. The undersized USC linebackers could have difficulty in pass coverage against those behemoths.
What to Watch For?
-Will Matt Barkley continue his Heisman campaign? He was excellent last week in throwing for six touchdowns. Giving Barkley time to dissect the Stanford defense is the key in the matchup. If the right amount of protection is given, USC will have a distinct advantage in this game.
-How will USC stop the Stanford running game? Stepfan Taylor is a great football player. If he has his way against the USC front seven, Stanford will definitely have a shot in this game. Anthony Wilkerson is a solid backup who can capably spell Taylor when needed
-If the Cardinal want to win, they will need a solid day from Josh Nunes. You never want to be the man who replaces the legend, but exactly do we know about Nunes? Is he capable of leading the program? Those questions will be answered on Saturday.
This will be a physical game won at the line of scrimmage. If Matt Barkley has ample time to make his throws, the game will be over. For Stanford to have a chance at the upset, pressuring Barkley is required. Long, sustained drives with pounding from Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson will provide relief to the Cardinal defense. In the end, the best three players line up for the Trojans. Marquise Lee, Robert Woods, and Matt Barkley will make enough plays to stave off the upset bid.
USC 28, Stanford 24