No. 20 USC Football Hosts No. 4 Stanford

    DaJohn Harris.

    Oct. 23, 2011


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    No. 20 USC returns home after a successful 2-game road trip to host undefeated No. 4 Stanford, Troy's oldest current rival (the first game was in 1905). The eyes of the college football world will be watching, starting with a dawn visit from ESPN's popular College GameDay pre-game show (and its sibling ESPN Radio College GameDay) and leading to a national prime-time ABC-TV game telecast. The contest is approaching a sellout.

    The Cardinal--riding a national-best 15-game winning streak, with the past 10 victories all by a national record 25 points or more--has won 3 of the last 4 meetings with USC, including last year at the gun in Palo Alto and a blowout in L.A. in 2009. This is the highest AP-ranked Stanford team that USC has faced (ranked Stanford teams have fared well against USC over the years). And it is the lowest AP ranking of any 6-1 USC squad (however, those Trojan teams have won all 5 times against the Cardinal).

    USC is coming off dominating wire-to-wire win at Notre Dame, its ninth win in the last 10 games with the Fighting Irish. The Trojans feature perhaps the nation's top pass-catch duo: honors candidates QB Matt Barkley (he is fifth on USC's career passing and total offense lists after setting school single game records for pass completions, yards, TDs and total offense this season) and WR Robert Woods (he is the only player in the national Top 3 in receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose running and is on pace to break the school single season receptions and receiving yardage records). Pre-season All-American OT Matt Kalil (with 4 blocked kicks this year on special teams) anchors a line that has surrendered just 4 sacks and helped get the USC running game (with TBs Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal) untracked last week.

    The Trojan defense, riding impressive showings the past 2 games, has become stout against the run and has turned in 5 sub-20-point outings this year. That defense is led by young LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard along with veterans like S T.J. McDonald (also a pre-season All-American), DE Nick Perry, LB Chris Galippo and CB Nickell Robey.

    Stanford, under head coach David Shaw (whose uncle was an All-American at USC), beat up on No. 22 Washington last weekend to boost its 2011 mark to 7-0 (its best start since 1951). The Cardinal has won its last 6 road games. Stanford is posting impressive numbers in all 3 phases of the game (it is in the Pac-12's Top 3 in most every offensive stat category and in the league's Top 5 in every defensive ranking). The Cardinal offense is in the national Top 25 in passing efficiency, scoring offense, passing offense, rushing offense and total offense, while the defense is in the national Top 20 in rushing defense, scoring defense, total defense, sacks, tackles for loss and turnover margin. QB Andrew Luck, the 2010 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and Stanford's winningest quarterback ever, is among the nation's best in passing efficiency and total offense. Benefactors of Luck's 72% accurate passing include WRs Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen and TEs Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener. RB Stepfan Taylor, with 11 career 100-yard rushing games, is seventh on the school's career rushing list. The Cardinal offensive line, featuring 2010 All-Pac-10 first team OG David DeCastro, has allowed just 2 sacks. Key Cardinal defenders are LBs Chase Thomas (one of the nation's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss) and Max Bergen, CB Johnson Bademosi and Ss Michael Thomas and Delano Howell. Stanford even rates high nationally in kickoff returns, while PK Jordan Williamson tops the Pac-12 in scoring.

    It's Trojan Family Weekend. There will be on-field salutes of some notable USC Olympians, as well as 2012 USC Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. Before the football game, the highly-ranked USC and Stanford men's water polo teams face off.