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USC and Stanford do battle in the PAC-10
It was only a matter of time before USC was forced to go through a rebuilding year. Coach Pete Carroll has taken this USC team to a different level since he has been the Head Coach. Carroll is 95-17 in his tenure at USC including 6 BCS bowl victories and one undisputed BCS National Title. Carroll has done a great job of getting quality QB's to USC which is why USC has gone on such a long streak at the top without having on off year. They have had QB's such as Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, and Mark Sanchez. They have had to depend on a true freshman in QB Matt Barkley which is not a position a team likes to be in, because while Barkley is a very talented QB and will just get better and better he is just not quite ready to lead USC to another Pac 10 title and Rose Bowl appearance. USC still has a slim chance at a Pac 10 title, but if they are going to fight their way to another title they cannot afford to have another slip up, so this weekend's game against Stanford becomes a must win game. Stanford is coming into this game off their biggest win of the year a 51-42 victory over #8 ranked Oregon. The Ducks came into the game against Stanford off a big win over USC, and it looked like they were going to finish out the year with one loss and a Pac 10 title, but Stanford had other plans. They took it to the Ducks from start to finish and showed that they are a legit Pac 10 contender now under new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. They still have an outside chance at a Pac 10 title, so much like with USC this game is a must win for the Cardinals which should make this a great game.
While having to start a True Freshman at QB has been a major contributor for USC's rough season, the fact that this defense lost 7 starters from last year's dominant defense has been another major contributor to why the Trojans dont look like the USC we are use to seeing. USC lost their whole starting LB core with Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, and Rey Maualuga to the NFL draft, so it is impossible not to have a drop off of production defensively even if your USC. This USC defense has got to step up because this Stanford offense is very good. Against Oregon Stanford put up 505 yards of total offense including 254 yards on the ground. Stanford RB Toby Gerhart had a career day against the Ducks rushing 38 times for 223 yards and 3 TD's. Gerhart has been a workhorse for the Cardinals and we dont expect that to change. Coach Jim Harbaugh is going to want to establish the run against this struggling USC defense because that opens up the passing game with QB Andrew Luck. Against the Ducks Luck went 12/20 for 251 yards and 2 TD's. That is exactly the kind of production this Stanford offense is looking for from Luck. Gerhart is going to be the main threat with this offense, but when Luck is asked to throw he needs to be efficient, and when he is this Stanford team is very difficult to handle. Stanford is ranked 2nd in the Pac 10 in rush offense averaging 211 yards per game. That rushing attack is going up against the Pac 10's 5th ranked rush defense. If the trend of Stanford running the ball at will and USC struggling to stop the run continues USC is going to be in another dogfight in the 4th quarter.
THE FINAL VERDICT
This Stanford team caught the Oregon Ducks at the perfect time. The Ducks were coming off an emotional victory over USC the week before, and then had to travel to Stanford which was the definition of a "Trap Game." Stanford has to be careful not to fall into the same trap coming off their biggest win of the year, but luckily for the Cardinals they follow that game up with USC which wont allow these Stanford players to have a letdown. USC will always get their opponents best shot because they are the big dogs of the Pac 10.
USC QB Matt Barkley has done a great job considering he is a True Freshman, but he has still had trouble leading this team like the long list of All-American QB's before him. Those QB's were able to take the game and put it on their shoulders and get the win. Barkley so far this year has been more of a game manager then a game changer, and when you have a QB who is just asked to manage the game if your other skill players don't have big games your going to be in a lot of close games which is exactly what has happened with this USC team. Highly touted RB Joe Mcknight has not lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school yet. He has only rushed for over 100 yards in 3 out of their 9 games, and he is not a true between the tackles RB, so after RB Stafon Johnson suffered a freak weight lifting accident and was forced to miss the rest of the year this USC offense has struggled to put the ball in the endzone when they get into the redzone, and when your offense has to settle for too many field goals your setting yourself up for an upset.
In this game against Stanford USC has got to put the ball in the endzone whenever they get inside the 20 because Stanford is ranked 2nd in the Pac 10 in scoring offense averaging 34 points per game. In USC's loss to Oregon they gave up 391 yards on the ground to the Duck's rushing attack. That is not good news if you are a Trojan fan because Stanford RB Toby Gerhart is coming into this game off a career performance against Oregon. With this being a must win for USC you know Pete Carroll will have his team ready to play, so we expect USC to play a very good game, but Stanford is a very good team offensively so we see this game being a very close game even thought Vegas has the line at 11 points. The Stanford rushing game is what will make this a close game that is decided in the 4th quarter, but Stanford's lack of defense is what is going to cost them the win. In Stanford's win against Oregon the Cardinals had 505 yards of total offense, but Oregon had 570 yards of total offense including 334 yards passing. This will allow Barkley to make the necessary plays late in the game to pull out a close victory. USC might look like they are headed the wrong way, but never doubt Pete Carroll's ability to get his team ready for a big game, and with this being a must win this is a very big game if the Trojans are going to salvage this season.