Scouting Report: Stanford

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Round #6 - Stanford Cardinal

2010 Record: 4-1 (W - Sac. St., UCLA, Wake Forest, Notre Dame; L - Oregon)

2009 Record: 8-5 (6-3 in the Pac-10)

Series History: USC leads 59-26-3 (Last meeting: 55-21 Stanford in '09)

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (4th season)

Love him or hate him, Harbaugh has imprinted his identity on the Cardinal football team.  He was a quarterback with a linebacker's mentality.  Stanford plays with a quarterback's mind and a linebacker's physicality.

Players to Watch: QB Andrew Luck (Sophomore, Houston, TX); LB/FB Owen Marecic (Junior, Tigard, OR)

Andrew Luck leads the conference in passing yardage and ranks in the top 20 in the nation in QB rating.  Like Jake Locker, he possesses a dual threat.  He has run for 60+ yards in two different games this season, although he won't punish tacklers like Locker.  He is listed as the #1 pro prospect in the nation by several draft experts.

Owen Marecic embodies the Stanford player that Harbaugh is trying to breed.  He is a two-way starter at fullback and linebacker.  Against Notre Dame, he scored on back-to-back plays from scrimmage.  First, he rammed home a run from his fullback spot and then he intercepted a pass and returned it for six. 

Strengths: Power and Discipline

While bruising back Toby Gerhart has moved on to the NFL, the Cardinal gameplan has not changed much.  They have grown stronger defensively.  Despite getting dusted by Oregon for 626 yards, they still rank third in the conference in total defense.  Offensively, Luck aired it out 46 times to keep up with the Ducks, but they would prefer their UCLA attack of two rushes to every one pass.  They lead the Pac-10 in time of possession.

As Lane Kiffin has said this week, the Cardinal are what he would like the Trojans to become.  He admires their mistake-free football, which includes a +4 turnover margin.  They are also sound in the kicking game.  PK Nate Whitaker is a perfect 9/9 on the season.

Weaknesses: Speed and Skill Positions

As Kiffin said, "Oregon could probably put up 52 on the New York Giants."  Be that as it may, the Ducks turned it into a track meet and Stanford saw nothing but taillights.  While the Trojans have tapped into their power with Allen Bradford, Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods will have advantages on the edge. 

Luck has been working with a mostly banged up supporting cast this season.  RB Stepfan Taylor has emerged with back-to-back 100+ yard games, but he is not Gerhart.  On the outside, projected WR starters Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen have been banged up.

Stanford Verdict

The Cardinal are a good news, bad news opponent for USC this weekend.  On the positive side, they are not likely to trick the Trojans' defense.  The linebackers will have an opportunity to play more aggressively downhill than what we have seen against the spread attacks. 

As for the bad news, Stanford is a borderline elite team.  They will try and punish the Trojans thin defensive line.  Plus, they have the versatility with Luck to open up the playbook more than last year when they put up 55 points in the Coliseum.

Stanford will test USC's toughness and belief.  We will know a lot more about the 2010 Trojans after this contest.

USC needs Wes Horton and his hammer. (Photo by Jon SooHoo)

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