The newly-minted No. 14 USC Trojans opened more than a few eyes with their 52-13 drubbing of Fresno State last weekend. There will be even more on display this weekend when the Trojans take the field against the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal.
USC and Stanford have a hotly-contested recent history, producing some of the more exciting Pac-12 contests of the last half-decade. With seemingly evenly-matched teams this year, the game should deliver on more than few storylines.
Here’s a look at just a few things to keep an eye on Saturday:
1) Can the Trojans Stay Efficient?
Looking past the scoreline, which could have been even more lopsided than it was, the most eye-popping statistic produced by the USC offense against Fresno State was the conversion of third downs.
The masterful first quarter performance featured a perfect score in that department. Faced with seven third downs in the quarter, USC converted all seven and surged to a 21-point lead.
For the game as a whole, the Trojans went 11-of-18 in that department, which blows away last years’ average of 34.95%. In fact, USC never once called on punter Kris Albarado as they also converted 3-of-5 fourth downs.
No one would have faulted the Trojans for a bit of rust coming out of the offseason, especially since they installed a new offense over the spring and summer. Instead, they took the field like a team at the height of their powers.
From a Stanford perspective, the Cardinal excelled at forcing teams off the field. In 2013 they held opponents to an average third-down conversion rating of 32.32%.
Something has to give.