USC vs. Stanford: Previewing the Cardinal Offense

Nov 7, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (14) tackles Stanford Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney (25) during the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Stanford Cardinal defeated the Oregon Ducks 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal come into the game against USC on Saturday ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in total offense.

At 81st nationally, the offense as a whole doesn’t produce a whole lot of yards, though they’re marginally better ranked in scoring offense, coming in seventh in the conference and 49th in the country. When it comes to the passing game, Stanford sits dead last in the conference, producing just 183 passing yards per game. However, they excel on the ground with a national ranking of 28th and an average of 205 yards.

Highly efficient on third down and in the red zone, the Cardinal don’t squander chances. Their 91% red zone and 51.5% third down success rate are both good for 13th in the nation.

Kevin Hogan heads the offense and boasts a 13-1 record in that position, including a perfect record in eight games against ranked teams. However, his 177.9 yards per game are 11th in the Pac-12. This season the junior has thrown 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He hasn’t been a liability for the Cardinal, but he also hasn’t proven to be a game changer.

Hogan does, however, present a danger in his ability to scramble for extra yards. Against the Ducks, he had 57 yards rushing as well as a touchdown on the ground and he is Stanford’s second leading rusher this season.

November 7, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan (8) warms up against the Oregon Ducks before the game at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Hogan’s main targets take the form of Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Montgomery leads all receivers with 41 receptions for 639 yards. He’s reeled in five touchdown passes and is one of the most electric special teams players in the country.

Cajuste has just 21 catches this season, for 377 yards. However, he has four touchdowns on those limited touches. He hurt his knee against UCLA and has missed two games as a result, but he should be available this Saturday.

Unlike last year when two of Stanford’s three leading receivers were tight ends, you have to go down ten slots on the stat sheet to find a tight ends name. Sophomore Luke Kaumatule has logged three receptions for 16 yards, while Charlie Hopkins has contributed just two.

Tyler Gaffney leads the way at running back. As the third leading rusher in the Pac-12, Gaffney is the Cardinal’s main offensive threat. He has 13 touchdowns this season on the ground, which is tied with Washington’s Bishop Sankey for tops in the conference. With just ten negative rushing yards, he has scored more touchdowns than yards lost.

Another senior, Anthony Wilkerson, has 232 yards this season as the back up to Gaffney.

The true stars of the Cardinal offense populate the offensive line. Three of Stanford’s five linemen — David Yankey, Kevin Danser, and Cameron Flemming — are Outland Trophy award candidate. Yankey is a semifinalist for the award and was on more preseason All-American lists to name. Every man on the offensive line is a senior with the exception of sophomore Andrus Peat.

When it comes down to it, Stanford’s offense is built towards USC’s strengths. The Trojans have proven adept at stopping the run while the questionable pass defense shouldn’t be tested too much. The key is at the line of scrimmage, where the health of USC’s defensive line is in question.

Projected Starting Lineup:

WR #89 Devon Cajuste
LT #70 Andrus Peat
LG #54 David Yankey
C #65 Khalil Wilkes
RG #76 Kevin Danser
RT #73 Cameron Fleming
TE #86 Charlie Hopkins
QB #8 Kevin Hogan
RB #25 Tyler Gaffney
FB #85 Ryan Hewitt
WR #7 Ty Montgomery

Topics: Football, Stanford Cardinal, USC Football, USC Trojans

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