No. 14 USC Trojans (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. No. 15 Stanford Cardinal (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date and Time: Saturday September 6th, 2014. 3:30PM EST
Where: Stanford Stadium Stanford, C.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC +3.5/SU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 54
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Pac-12 rivals meet this Saturday inside Stanford Stadium when the no. 15 Stanford Cardinal host the no. 14 USC Trojans. The Cardinal has won the Pac-12 Championship in each of the last two years and have ambitions for a 3-peat. However, USC snapped a 4 game losing streak to Stanford with a 20-17 victory inside the Coliseum last year and have high expectations for 2014 as well. The Trojans have not won at Stanford since the 2008 season when they last won the Pac-12 Championship. This week the Trojans try to catapult the Steve Sarkisian regime into the Pac-12 Title race in their first big road trip of the season.
The Steve Sarkisian era began last week in a big way as the Trojans routed Fresno State 52-13. While that may not seem like a surprise at first glance, let’s remember that Fresno State captured 11 wins in 2013. However the Trojans dominated by forcing 4 turnovers on defense and racking up 701 total yards on offense. Sarkisian’s offense looked like a well-oiled machine; in rhythm and efficient. The Trojans snapped 105 plays which set a school and Pac-12 record. Quarterback Cody Kessler looked great as he threw for 394 passing yards with 4 touchdowns and ran for another score. In many ways, the Trojans offense looked far better than they did at any point during the Lane Kiffin era and it will be interesting to see how they perform this week against an extremely talented defensive minded Stanford team.
Last week Stanford also took care of business in their season opener by blowing out an FCS opponent in UC Davis 45-0. The Cardinal defense appeared impenetrable as they gave up just 115 total yards and forced 3 turnovers in their first 60 minutes of game action. Not bad for a group that returned just 5 starters on the defensive side of the football. Obviously this week the Cardinal defense gets their first big test of the season and they have done a great job of containing high power offenses under coach Shaw. Just look at the Oregon game tapes the last couple years. Still, a strong defensive effort will not get the job done alone for Stanford. The Cardinal will still have to make some things happen on the offensive side of the ball as well.
If you look back at the last 4 meetings between USC and Stanford, each game has been decided by single digits. If that trend holds true again this week, then turnovers and offensive conversions could be the things to watch for. Both USC and Stanford turned the ball over a couple times last week which would be devastating in a game of this magnitude this Saturday. Additionally, both defenses that enter this Saturday’s contest are extremely talented. I mentioned Stanford’s defense but the Trojans have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. USC returned 7 starters from their 2013 group including 6 in their back 7.
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Stanford’s pro-style offense will put some pressure on the Trojans defensive front and it will be interesting to see if the Cardinal offense can keep the chains moving with their running game. Stanford’s defense has to be able to stay off the field to hold up to USC’s offense over the course of 60 minutes. Therefore if Stanford is going to make a run at another Pac-12 Title, it will be critical that they are able to control the line of scrimmage and allow running backs Kelsey Young and Barry Sanders room to run. By the way, yes that is the Barry J Sanders, son of Detroit Lion’s Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders, just in case you were wondering.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have never been a fan of USC but I have said all along that Steve Sarkisian was a great hire. This early in the season when it is still hot and humid, I think Stanford’s defense in going to be in for quite the challenge. I hate going with mainstream media, but I really think the Trojans are the better team this Saturday. Take USC +3.5!