Game 8: USC vs. Stanford

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#4 Stanford (7-0, 5-0) at #20 USC (6-1, 3-1)

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 5  p.m. pacific on ABC and

Cardinal to Watch: RS Junior QB Andrew Luck

Luck-ESPN-USC-09.jpgWho else?  He is the prohibitive favorite to be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft whenever he declares.  Lane Kiffin described him as "perfect."  Others have touted Luck as the best QB prospect since John Elway.  The Houston product has a powerful 6'4", 235-pound frame (ask Shareece Wright), but he can move as well (61 yards rushing vs. USC in 2009).  And, he makes good decisions (5th best passer rating in the nation).

(Photo by ESPN)

Click the link to learn more about the Cardinal:

3 Keys

Strength vs. Strength

Stanford's offense is akin to a battering ram.  They plan to pound on the Trojans early until the defense is softened and Luck can hit play-action passes over the top.  USC's run defense has held its last two opponents to a 38.5 yard per game average.  If the front seven holds up against the run, Stanford does not have elite athletes on the outside to separate from the Trojans' secondary.

Red Zone Efficiency

The Cardinal have cashed in on every single red zone trip this season (38/38) for at least three points (30 TDs and 8 FGs).  The Trojans' offense ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in the same category (74.2%).  With Andre Heidari wounded, Matt Barkley will need to engineer touchdown drives, while USC's defense bends for field goals, but does not break for six.

Strength of Schedule

Stanford has won 10 consecutive games by 25 points or more.  While that is undeniably impressive, how will they react when they are stuck in a 4th quarter dogfight?  The battle-tested Trojans have won three games that have come down to the final possession.  In a sold out Coliseum, USC must push Stanford to the limit.

Here is Andrew Luck (2-0 vs. USC) talking beard, NFL and Trojans at Pac-12 Media Day...

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