1. Set the line of scrimmage
The strength of Stanford’s offensive line is its ability to push opponents around.
The defense may know what’s coming, yet the Cardinal linemen are still able to bulldoze the defense.
When compared to matching up against a spread offense, USC has long experienced more success against traditional offenses.
For the most part, the Cardinal run a traditional offense, with an additional lineman here and there. The Trojans need to be able to set the line of scrimmage and not get blown off the line.
If Cardinal running backs aren’t getting touched until they’re already two or three yards up the field, the Trojan defense will be in for a long evening.
2. Make tackles
When the Trojans have the opportunity to wrap someone up, they need to.
Whether its Kevin Hogan, a running back, or a wide receiver, failing to bring down a Cardinal player could be backbreaking.
On too many occasions an Oregon defender let a Cardinal out of their grasp and it made their defensive snaps much more difficult.
A third-and-short is a lot different than a third-and-long.
3. Get pressure on Kevin Hogan
En route to their lone loss on the season, Hogan was sacked twice by Utah. In a game the Cardinal nearly lost, Washington also sacked Hogan twice.
Similarly, in the Cardinal’s eight-point defeat of Oregon State, Hogan was sacked two more times.
In those three games, Hogan completed 53.8% of his pass attempts and threw one interception.
The Cardinal rely heavily on their rushing attack, but when Hogan does drop back to pass, the Trojans need to make him uncomfortable.
4. Create turnovers
As the underdog, the Trojans need every break they can get.
Early in the season the defense showed the ability to create turnovers, but then suffered a lull.
They failed to get a turnover in the game against Cal, but have forced eight of them in their last four games.
The Cardinal have lost a turnover in all but one of their games.
In a game where defenses may dominate, if the Trojan defense can give its offense a short field, it could prove to be the difference.
5. Get ahead of the sticks
Against the Ducks, the Cardinal converted 14 of their 21 third-down attempts.
A large portion of those attempts were short yardage situations. Forcing the Cardinal into third-and-longs may get them out of their comfort zone.
To do that, the Trojans need to win on first or second down, if not both.