2016 Game 3: USC vs. Stanford

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USC Trojans (1-1, 0-0) at No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (1-0, 0-0)

Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto at 5 p.m. PT on ABC and WatchESPN

USC_FOOTBALL_092015DSC_9702.jpgCardinal to Watch: Junior RB Christian McCaffrey

Who else? USC fans are all too familiar with McCaffrey's exploits. He burned the Trojans twice last year en route to breaking Barry Sanders record for all-purpose yards in a season. In the first meeting at the Coliseum, McCaffrey broke out for a then career-high 115 rush yards. He would go on to make that performance seem pedestrian, topping the 100-yard mark 11 times last season. He singlehandedly trounced the Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game, accounting for 461 all-purpose yards (207 rush, 105 receiving and 149 return). 

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The Trojans were well aware of McCaffrey's talents by the time of the Pac-12 Championship Game, but they could do little about it. Under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, the hope is that the USC defense has improved at taking away an opponent's strength. In fact, head coach Clay Helton praised Pendergast for that exact ability this week after the Trojans shut down Alabama WR Calvin Ridley and Utah State RB Devante Mays in the first two games. The Crimson Tide were able to beat USC with options two and three, but the Cardinal offense is not quite as diverse. McCaffrey received 64 percent of the offensive touches (rushes + receptions) in Stanford's season-opening victory over Kansas State.

No Margin for Error

With the exception of the Pac-12 Championship Game, USC and Stanford tend to play cagey, low-scoring affairs in recent years. The Trojans emerged victorious in 2013 (20-17) and 2014 (13-10) by not turning the ball over, excelling in the kicking game, and playing stout defense, especially in the red zone. The winning formula should be similar this year. Pendergast and special teams coach John Baxter must work their magic, while the offense only needs to be efficient and mistake-free.

Stage for a Star

All week long, the Trojans have heard the name McCaffrey on repeat. "That makes us want to work hard to try to get our names out there," said USC senior RB Justin Davis. "Sometimes the whole Pac-12 gets so concerned about Christian McCaffrey, but we've got backs just as talented at USC. I just can't wait to display that." The Trojans have the tailbacks and wide receivers, including one JuJu Smith-Schuster, who have the ability to emerge from this game as the story. While the offense may not need to score 40 points to win, a few special plays could define the game and maybe even someone's career.

Stanford Thursday: Clay Helton Presser

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Written by Grace DeWitt, USC blog contributor 

After about a month of rest, John Plattenburg has cleared concussion protocol and will be back in action next week with the Trojans. The team met one last time today before heading north for another episode in their rivalry with the Cardinal. 

Here is head coach Clay Helton addressing the media after practice:

Volleyball Sets Up at Home

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USC women's volleyball returns to the Galen Center this week to host the 2016 Pac-12 Challenge.

Click here for the full preview.

The No. 21 Trojans have picked themselves off the mat, winning six straight after dropping their first three matches of the season. They took home the title at the USC Radisson Classic and the Rice Adidas Invitational and now they prepare to face Oklahoma and Maryland this weekend.

Freshman outside hitter Khalia Lanier (pictured), junior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie and senior middle blocker Elise Ruddins, all of whom earned all-tournament honors last week, will be key in topping the Sooners and the Terrapins.

Lanier, who was the 2016 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year, 20 leads the team with 125 kills and 10 service aces this season. Ruddins, meanwhile, has posted a team-leading 32 blocks.

The Trojans face Oklahoma at 8 p.m. tonight and Maryland at 8 p.m. on Saturday.


Down to the Wire

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USC opens its conference slate this Saturday with a trip to Palo Alto to face No. 7 Stanford.

Though the Cardinal have won four of the last six regular season meetings between the two teams, each game has been a battle to the end. In those six games, the margin of victory has never been greater than 10 points. In fact, on average, those games have been decided by just 5.5 points each.

The Trojans enter the matchup unranked, but given the recent history between those two teams, that's nothing to be worried about. In 2013, unranked USC toppled No. 5 Stanford, while in 2012, the tables were turned, as a Trojan squad ranked No. 2 in the nation fell to the 21st-ranked Cardinal.

Time will tell what will come of the latest matchup between the Cardinal and the Cardinal & Gold.

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Soccer Ready to Bulba-score

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pokecard-social[7].jpgThis Friday, USC women's soccer hosts Kansas in its last dust-up before conference play begins.

Fans attending the 3 p.m. match at McAlister Field will receive a free Pokemon t-shirt.

The Trojans are fresh off five straight wins, and have not given up a goal during that streak, outscoring their opponents 13-0. Most recently, USC earned a statement win over 22-time National Champion UNC, which helped catapult the team to No. 12 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll.

Click here for the full game preview.

A few Women of Troy have stood out during the team's winning streak.

Sophomore Ally Prisock was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after using iron guard to raise her defense and help e-Raticate the competition.

Senior goalie Sammy Jo Prudhomme has been catching 'em all this season, earning her two consecutive Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week awards. She's been credited with four shutouts and has saved almost 90 percent of the shots that have come her way so far.

Offensively, Alex Anthony has been putting the (poke)ball in the back of the net all year. The redshirt junior transfer from Maryland has scored a team-high five goals, while Morgan Andrews and Nicole Molen have posted three each. Andrews was named to the TopDrawer Soccer's Team of the Week on Tuesday for her two-goal effort over the weekend.

Kansas, meanwhile, enters the game with a 5-2-1 record, and is coming off three straight wins against Valparaiso, Pittsburgh and UMKC.

The Jayhawks come to town at 3 p.m. on Friday at McAlister Field. Hopefully you will Pika-choose to attend and the heat won't make you Drowzee or Krabby!

Stanford Wednesday: Notes

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The Trojans are locked in on No. 5 in preparation for Stanford.
  • With one notable exception, USC will have all hands on deck Saturday. DL Noah Jefferson is likely out, but OT Zach Banner (illness) and S Marvell Tell III (concussion) were cleared to play, per head coach Clay Helton.
  • USC_Football_Pac_12_Championship_Stanford_MCGILLEN_V3_LR12071500013.jpgKhaliel Rodgers, who moved to defensive line in the offseason, has moved back to offensive line to backup Nico Falah at center after the injury to Toa Lobendahn. Helton called Rodgers "the ultimate team player."
  • Most of the Stanford questions revolve around Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey. "We have got to tackle him," said LB Cam Smith. "He's just a human. He's a great ball player, but we have got to do our job. He's very elusive. "
  • In practice this week, the "lightning quick" Velus Jones Jr. has been tasked with simulating McCaffrey on the service team. Jones is a talented receiver as well as runner, so he can provide the versatile looks that makes McCaffrey so difficult.
  • However, Stanford is more than just one player. The Cardinal run a thinking man's offense that often calls two plays in the huddle, so the quarterback can make an informed decision at the line of scrimmage. "They give you a lot of things," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast about the Cardinal. "They give you multiple personnel groupings, multiple formations. They force you to have to adjust and you've got to be on your P's and Q's because of the different things they do and you have to be really good at playing situation football."
  • While the Cardinal put 41 points on the Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the recent regular season contests have been tight affairs with little scoring. "I've been here long enough to know this game's going to come down to a few points," said QB Max Browne. "Very competitive team, very competitive rivalry - especially in recent memory. It's going to come down to a few throws so just staying prepared and executing what we need to do."
  • The deep throws are the ones that can make the difference and both Helton and Browne have expressed an urgency to get the vertical passing game going. "We missed a few last week," said Browne about the deep ball. "It falls on my shoulders, so making sure those balls are accurate and giving our guys a chance. I feel like that's one of my strengths - just going out there and throwing the deep ball. It's back yard ball, I've been doing that since the good old recess days. Going out there and executing those plays, those plays are big momentum plays, so that'll be huge for us."
  • Here is Helton's press conference:

21 Pilots

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Heading into the 2016-17 season, representatives from each of USC's 21 sports met on top of the AT&T Center for the annual "All 21" photo shoot. The AT&T Center, just two miles from campus, overlooks the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, where the Trojans call home.

Top row, from left to right: Nick Bell (men's water polo), Nina Kelty (lacrosse), Rebekah Ent (cross country), Anika  Apostalon (women's swimming), Eric Sloan (men's track & field), Courtney Jaco (women's basketball), Karen Chung (women's golf), Lucas Yoder (men's volleyball), Reed Malone (men's swimming), Brianna Daboub (women's water polo), Sara Hughes (beach volleyball), Jeremy Martinez (baseball)

Bottom row, from left to right: Zach Banner (football), Zoe Katz (women's tennis), Jordan McLaughlin (men's basketball), Amalie Iuel (women's track & field), Madara Strautmane (rowing), Nick Crystal (men's tennis), Collin Pollard (men's diving), Taylor Whittingham (women's volleyball), Savannah Levin (women's soccer), Sean Crocker (men's golf), Madison Witt (women's diving)

Cardinal, Gold Clash Again

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This weekend, USC heads up to Palo Alto for the latest installment of what has been an exciting rivalry the last few years between the Cardinal and the Cardinal & Gold.

While USC holds a decisive 60-31-3 series lead against Stanford, the last seven regular season meetings have been intense, featuring nailbiting, upsets and overtime. Since 2010, each regular season matchup between USC and Stanford has been decided by an average of just 5.5 points.

USC's Homecoming game vs. Stanford on Nov. 14, 2009 is the catalyst that helped the rivalry become what it is today. Jim Harbaugh's 25th-ranked Cardinal came to town and upended the 9th-ranked Trojans, 55-21. Harbaugh's decision to attempt a 2-point conversion with his team up 48-21 prompted the infamous, "What's your deal?" post-game exchange between he and then-USC head coach Pete Carroll.

The next year, Stanford rubbed salt in the wound by erasing USC's go-ahead score with just over a minute to go by hitting a game-winning FG on the final play of the game.

Come 2011, the Trojans were ready to be back on the winning end of the rivalry. Though the Cardinal entered the match-up ranked No. 4 in the nation, No. 20 USC played fearlessly --- leading by 10 in the third quarter and retaking the lead on Nickell Robey's pick-six with just three minutes to go in the game. But that's when Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck showed his strength, engineering a 76-yard, game-tying TD drive. The game would go to triple overtime, and the Cardinal stole a victory when USC fumbled into the end zone on its last opportunity to score.

It was Matt Barkley who was campaigning for a Heisman in 2012, and the Stanford game that year was a defining moment in the season. Though USC at No. 2 was ranked 19 spots ahead of the Cardinal, Stanford captured its fourth straight win in the series.

DSC_7226.jpgThe tables finally turned on a November night the next year when unranked USC toppled No. 4 Stanford. Andre Heidari came through with a 47-yard FG to put USC ahead 20-17 with moments to go, and the sold out crowd rushed the field at the L.A. Coliseum.

Heidari earned the nickname "Cardinal Killer" when he hit a career-high 53-yard FG to put the Trojans up 13-10 the following year at Stanford. J.R. Tavai forced a fumble on the Cardinal's final drive to seal another win for USC in the rivalry.

In 2015, USC couldn't get it done against Stanford, as Christian McCaffrey racked up 249 all-purpose yards in the Coliseum. The teams met again in the Pac-12 Championship, and the Cardinal were victorious again.

"That should never happen at USC: losing to Stanford twice in a season, let alone one time," said USC RB Justin Davis recently. "To have those two losses in our mouth right now, against a team that we could have very easily beat, it's driving us crazy right now."

USC has a chance to change that this Saturday in Palo Alto. For the third straight year and the fourth out of five years, the Trojans open conference play against the Cardinal. With Stanford ranked No. 7 and USC currently outside the Top 25, the Trojans have the opportunity to pull off an upset and make a statement following a 1-1 start to the season.

The Trojans take the field at 5 p.m. on Saturday to write the next chapter in the USC-Stanford story.

#USCHero: Captain John MacIntyre

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At every home game, USC and Sport Clips celebrate a veteran of the armed forces, starting this week with Captain John MacIntyre. The USC alum ('75) served 30 years in the Navy in many operational commands.

During his distinguished career, he received two Legion of Merit awards, four Meritorious Service medals, three Navy Commendation medals and three Navy Achievement medals. On Saturday, he was presented the USC Medal of Courage by athletic director Lynn Swann.


Trojans Live: Stanford Preview

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With another big game due up Saturday at Stanford, USC head coach Clay Helton and sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith stopped by Trojans Live to preview the Pac-12 opener.

Click here for Helton on Trojans Live!

Also, USC women's volleyball has won six consecutive matches, so senior captain Taylor Whittingham explained how the Women of Troy have turned it around.

Click here for Whittingham on Trojans Live!

Here is Smith's interview on rehabbing his knee injury, the difference between last year's defensive system and this year's, plus much more: