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USC

vs.

Stanford

PAC 12

College Football Pick

9/17/16

This isn't exactly the opening Pac-12 matchup that USC was looking for. After an up and down first two weeks to the season, the Trojans have to travel to Stanford, who is coming off a bye weekend. And so, not to much surprise, the Cardinal are currently a -9 point favorite at Intertops Sportsbook.

It was business as usual for David Shaw and the Cardinal in their opener two weeks ago, taking down Kansas State 26-13. Their defense controlled the Wildcats outside of one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and new quarterback Ryan Burns wasn't asked to do much, attempting just 18 passes

Burns wasn't needed because Christian McCaffrey is on the team. One of the preseason Heisman favorites, and last year's runner up, McCaffrey ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns to go with seven receptions for 40 yards. It was nothing new for the running back after doing similar things a year ago. K State knew what Stanford was going to do, but they couldn't do anything against it.

And that was kind of how the two times these teams played each other last year went. Stanford won the first meeting 41-31 on the road and then did the same later in the season in a 41-22 win in the Pac-12 title game. The Cardinal didn't ask much of QB Kevin Hogan and let McCaffrey dominate the game, while the defense did enough to get the win.

In the title game, McCaffrey ran for 207 yards and a TD, while also catching four balls for 105 yards and another TD. The Trojans had no answers, while Cody Kessler only threw for 187 yards in the loss.

Obviously, something will have to change for USC in this game if they want a chance. In the opener against Alabama, it looked like the same Trojans team in recent years. But last week, they turned the tide by controlling both lines of scrimmage. But winning in the trenches is much harder against Stanford than Utah State and there's no reason to believe USC can win that battle in this game, especially on the road.

One way USC mixed things up in the Utah State win was by using two quarterbacks, Max Browne and Sam Darnold. Browne is the starter, but Darnold was brought in when the Trojans reached the red zone. Both quarterbacks finished with two TDs apiece and the strategy looked to work for the most part with Darnold's mobility a bonus in the final 20 yards. But will that work against the Cardinal, who are fresh and looked like the same team in the opener?

With McCaffrey expected to have another good game, USC will somehow need to match that. That likely won't come from Browne or Darnold, but probably through the running backs in Justin Davis or Aca'Cedric Ware.

Since Stanford won both of these matchups a year ago by double digits, it is a bit interesting that the Cardinal aren't favored by at least 10 at home in this meeting. Maybe last weekend's win over Utah State gave some confidence to bettors and they're willing to take away the 'Bama game since it was Bama, the best team in the country.

Our Pick - These two are very familiar with each other. Over the last 10 games between the two, Stanford has won 7. However, only two of those were by more than 10 points. We'll take USC to keep this rivalry close. Watch the board and shoot for a +10. But still a play at +9.
 

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