Stanford Cardinal: Defeating USC No Small Task


The Stanford Cardinal have spent this week preparing for what may just be the biggest game on their 2015 schedule. No it’s not the big one versus Cal, this one is bigger. This week is the road game that sees them travel down to Los Angeles to face the highly touted Trojans of USC.

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  • USC is currently ranked number six in the country and has yet to face a real test. In two victories over Arkansas State and Idaho, the Trojans have piled on over 1,200 yards of offense, and have only given up 15 total points.

    Neither game was close after the coin toss, which was to be expected.

    Led by starting quarterback — and Heisman candidate —  Cody Kessler, and backed up by a squadron of NFL-caliber running backs, USC will certainly be the best team Stanford has played so far this season — if not the best team they’ll face all year. USC has a great all-around offense with a plethora of both powerful and quick skill players.

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    They are no slouches on defense either, as nearly all of their players can seemingly beat you at will. Through two games, they are limiting opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry on the ground, compared to their own team’s 6.8 yards per carry average.

    USC is back to being a national powerhouse, that’s for sure.

    Stanford, on the other hand, is in a very different position. After losing their first game in an upset to Northwestern, they rebounded nicely last week against UCF. Thus far, Stanford looks like a team that may not be sure of itself. Not even with steady senior QB Kevin Hogan at the helm. 

    It’s been the tale of two teams for Stanford in 2015, as one team looked weak and futile while the other ran a downward sloping UCF program off of the Farm. Against Northwestern, Stanford managed a meager 85 yards on the ground and even Hogan only managed to throw for 155 yards.

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  • This lack of offensive production obviously hurt the Cardinal, as they wound up with nothing but two field goals to show for their trip to Evanston, Illinois.

    On the other side of the ball, they did a good job of ensuring that the QB for the Wildcats could not harm them, as the defense limited him to just 105 yards on the day. What really did Stanford in though, was the run defense — or the lack thereof. The team clearly had a hard time stopping Northwestern’s featured running back, Justin Jackson, as he ran for over 130 yards on the day.

    When you don’t score a touchdown all day, and give up a pile of yardage to the opponent, your chances of winning will certainly decline.

    Stanford needed to bounce back quickly though, as a 2014 Fiesta Bowl Champion University of Central Florida team was paying them a visit. Stanford answered the challenge mightily, and proved to the loyal Cardinal fans just what this team is capable of.

    Stanford scored early and often, with Hogan leading the offense on short drives with one big play, and long drives with over a dozen plays. Hogan looked effective, airing it out for over 340 passing yards to accompany his three touchdown passes. The running game wasn’t much to brag about, but did just enough, including tacking on a late rushing score to add to the big lead.

    Stanford’s defense looked just as good as UCF’s offense looked bad, with Stanford holding UCF to just 181 total yards of offense all day — even with the second and third string defense getting plenty of playing time.

    The Cardinal was also able to force two turnovers, which of course set up the offense in favorable position. Stanford also won the time of possession battle and  allowed UCF to score its lone touchdown in garbage time while down 31-0 with just over a minute remaining.

    The main takeaway from these two first games of the season is essentially this: Stanford needs to make sure their most recent team shows up on game day, not the squad that played against Northwestern. They will also need establish a solid passing game early by making sure Hogan is comfortable in the pocket and has time to be accurate with his deep ball — which is of course, easier said than done.

    Those things will be necessary if they hope to remind USC who ended their 35-game home winning streak in 2007.

    Next: Breaking Down the Stanford Cardinal 2015 Schedule