Stanford beats USC on offense if…
If they can control the line of scrimmage and chew up the clock, keeping the Trojans’ high powered offense on the sideline.
The Cardinal have a simple offensive game plan, they want to run it down your throat with Stepfan Taylor and punish you with their physical line led by David Yankey and Sam Schwartzsein. Once they have pounded you and changed the line of scrimmage with their physical offensive line they become dangerous. They now have established the run and made play action a very dangerous weapon.
This was the same plan when Andrew Luck was under center and it has been very effective for them over the last few years. They pack you in by bringing in extra tight ends. This automatically has their opponent thinking run, they play action you to get you attacking the line of scrimmage and attack you over the top with the tight ends down the seams or take shots on the outside to receivers who have one on one coverage.
The Trojans defense can’t get caught up in this. The front four has to re-establish the line of scrimmage on Stanford’s side of the ball and prevent push from the offensive line. If the linebackers and secondary don’t have to over commit to the run, they will be more effective in taking away the passing game.
This will be a tall order for the defensive line as they will have to think run every snap unless down and distance dictate otherwise. With the offensive line firing out as if they are run blocking when they are really pass setting, this will slow the pass rush and give Josh Nunes that extra second to find an open receiver. If the pass coverage can lay back to defend the pass instead of over committing to the run, Nunes will be forced to hold the ball which will give the pass rush some extra time to get there.
Watch closely how this plays out and how the entire defense responds coming off that porous second half of the Syracuse game.
Stanford beats the Trojans on defense if…
The Cardinal’s defense can get to Matt Barkley and rattle his cage a bit this could have a profound impact on the game. This will keep the score low and keep Stanford’s multiple tight ends, play action offense in play. Stanford can’t let the Trojans get up early because this will take them out of what they do best and allow the Trojans to not play the run so aggressively on defense.
The ability to protect Barkley could rest largely on the health of center Khaled Holmes and his ankle. Holmes is listed as the starting center for the game’s depth chart but that could just be Lane Kiffin upholding his non-disclosure of injuries policy. If Holmes does play, how effective will he be and if he doesn’t play will his replacement be able to make all the necessary line protection calls? This can all factor into Stanford’s ability to get to the Trojans’ trigger man
To say that Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are Barkley’s primary targets is an understatement. If the Cardinal’s defense can’t get to Barkley, their next option is to nullify Woods and Lee. Barkley doesn’t seem interested in getting the ball to anyone else other than these two. So how does he react if his security blankets are taken away from him?
These are a few things to keep an eye on as the Trojans’ offense take the field against the Cardinal’s defense.