No. 6 USC Football Opens Pac-12 Play By Hosting Stanford

    JuJu Smith-Schuster
    Sept. 13, 2015

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    September 6, 2014
    Stanford, Calif.
    No. 14 USC Holds Off No. 13 Stanford, 13-10
    Andre Heidari kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining, J.R. Tavai forced a fumble to end Stanford's comeback bid and No. 14 Southern California held off the No. 13 Cardinal 13-10 Saturday.

    No. 6 USC concludes a 3-game homestand as it hosts Stanford in the Pac-12’s first conference game of 2015. The Cardinal is Troy’s oldest rival (the first game was in 1905). This is the first time since 2008 that USC is facing an unranked Stanford squad. The last 5 meetings in the series have been decided by 8 points or less, including the past 2 that USC won on late field goals. It’s Pac-12 Student Awareness Week (#Complete12), as the “student” part of the student-athlete equation will be celebrated conference-wide, and it’s appropriate that USC and Stanford are meeting this week as both are ranked in the Top 25 in the recently-released U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. After starting 2015 with dominating victories over a pair of Sun Belt teams (by 50 points over Idaho last weekend), USC steps up to more challenging competition this week. The Trojans’ offense—averaging 57 points and 623 yards—is led by third-year QB Cody Kessler, whose 2015 Heisman Trophy candidacy is off to a fast start (he has completed nearly 80% of his aerials with 7 TDs and no picks to rank second nationally in passing efficiency). Among the numerous pass catchers from whom he has to choose (16 have receptions already in 2015) is Biletnikoff Award candidate WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is coming off a career best outing last Saturday (he’s in the national Top 15 in receiving yards, receiving TDs and receptions). The Trojan running attack is productive (nearly 7 yards per carry with 8 TDs) and deep, including TBs Tre Madden, Justin Davis and exciting freshman Ronald Jones II. Troy’s offensive line, led by leading Rimington Trophy candidate C Max Tuerk, didn’t surrender a sack last week. The USC defense, which hasn’t been scored on in the first quarter this year (and in 9 of the last 15 opening quarters), features Butkus nominee OLB Su’a Cravens, DT Antwaun Woods and CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson, the nation’s most exciting performer who is up for such awards as the Heisman, Thorpe and Hornung. So far, 14 true freshmen have seen action for the Trojans. USC walk-on WR Bo St. Geme has 11 relatives who competed at Stanford, including 6 who played football there. Stanford, under head coach David Shaw (whose uncle played at USC), won big at home last weekend over UCF after a season-opening road loss at Northwestern. Fourth-year starting QB Kevin Hogan is among the school’s career leaders in TD passes, total offense and passing yards. RB Christian McCaffrey tops the Cardinal in rushing, receiving, punt returns and kick returns (he is 13th nationally in all-purpose running, tops in the Pac-12). WR Devon Cajuste and TE Austin Hooper lead the receiving corps. Stanford’s defense is 11th in the country in pass efficiency defense, 15th in pass defense and 18th in both total defense and scoring defense. Key defenders include LBs Blake Martinez, Kevin Anderson and Peter Kalambayi. The game will air live nationally on ABC. The 35th anniversary of “Swim With Mike,” USC’s swim-a-thon that has raised $15 million-plus for physically challenged athletes, will be celebrated during the game (Stanford has held its own Swim for the past 9 years).