No. 17 USC (1-0) at No. 10 Stanford (1-0)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Stanford Stadium. TV: Channel 11. Radio: 710.
USC defensive front vs. Stanford offensive line. The Cardinal return all five starters on the offensive line from a group that nearly paved the way to a Heisman Trophy for speedy tailback Bryce Love. Meanwhile, USC’s defensive line spent the offseason trying to become bigger, deeper and more physical in the trenches. This is the backbone of Stanford’s identity under coach David Shaw, who would line up seven or eight linemen at one time if he could (he actually has been known to do that in short-yardage situations). The Trojans believe they have a legitimate two-deep inside with Jay Tufele, Brandon Pili, Marlon Tuipulotu and Malik Dorton, and their hope is that staying fresh by rotating players often will not be as much of an issue as in past seasons. Having a healthy Porter Gustin at outside linebacker should be a key here; in Clancy Pendergast’s 2-4-5 scheme a lot is asked in the run game of the two outside linebackers to be able to set the edge. To win this battle, USC will need more from Christian Rector, who was too quiet against Nevada Las Vegas.
USC (501 ypg/43 ppg): If JT Daniels handles his first road game like he did his college debut last Saturday against UNLV, the hype around the true freshman will only intensify. He started slowly but completed 22 of 35 passes for 282 yards (a USC record for a quarterback making his first start) and a touchdown. Daniels was a few missed connections with starting receivers Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. away from having a huge day. The trio spent the week trying to get clicking in the way that Daniels already does with high school teammate Amon-ra St. Brown, who had seven catches for 98 yards in his USC debut.
Stanford (382 ypg/31 ppg): Love was stifled by San Diego State, which loaded the box consistently and held him to 29 yards in 18 carries. Stanford decided to go over the top with quarterback KJ Costello finding receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside six times for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Stanford is likely to go right back to its ground game at the start Saturday in an attempt to establish quick dominance at the line of scrimmage.
USC (405 ypg/21 ppg): Will the Trojans load the box as stubbornly as the Aztecs did? Unlikely. USC will have a more diverse plan of attack in place aimed to keep the Cardinal guessing. At some point, the Trojans will have to count on their secondary to be able to play one-on-one outside with Stanford’s receivers.
Stanford (263 ypg/10 ppg): The Cardinal held San Diego State to 150 yards rushing in the opener. Stanford knows just as well as USC that whoever has the most rushing yards usually wins in this rivalry and will put emphasis on stopping the run and forcing Daniels into third-and-long situations.
USC kicker Chase McGrath won Pac-12 special teams player of the week honors after making all five of his field-goal attempts in the opener.
Due to an undisclosed personnel matter, USC will be without safety Bubba Bolden for the second straight game. Coach Clay Helton has given no timetable for his return.