USC Football Schedule Preview 2015: Scouting Stanford


USC football will face the first real test of the season when the Stanford Cardinal come to town for the Pac-12 opener at the Coliseum in September.

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David Shaw’s Cardinal had a disappointing 8-5 record last year — the first time they have failed to win double digit games since 2009.

The rebuilding effort continues in 2015 as Stanford aims to return to the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Here’s an early look at USC’s third opponent of the year:


Kevin Hogan returns for the Cardinal, which is part blessing, part curse for the team.

On the one hand, Hogan is a third-year starter with plenty of experience to help Stanford on its way. On the other hand, Hogan’s inability to take the next step from solid quarterback to elite is part of what limited them last year.

Specific to the match up with USC, not only has Hogan has never beaten the Trojans, he has never thrown a touchdown pass against them either.

Beyond the quarterback, the offense returns a wealth of starters.

Though All-American tackle Andrus Peat has departed for the NFL, Stanford returns the remainder of an offensive line which struggled to maintain continuity last year. Included among them is All-Pac-12 tackle Kyle Murphy.

Ty Montgomery’s departure means Devon Cajuste must pick up the slack in his redshirt senior season along with Michael Rector, both of whom thrived in Montgomery’s absence at the end of last season. Luckily for Hogan, the Cardinal will also have All-Pac-12 tight end target Austin Hooper at his disposal.

April 11, 2015; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs with the football during the spring football game at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Utilizing a stable in 2014, Stanford’s situation at running back remains a mystery, with any one of Remound Wright, Barry Sanders Jr., Kelsey Young or Christian McCaffrey fighting to take the reins.

Of the group, McCaffrey is the one to keep an eye on after exciting cameos in 2014.

Of course, regardless of returning players, the Cardinal lacked a clear identity on offense last year and until they find one the way forward will be difficult. If the spring game is any indication, their redzone problems remain unsolved, as the offense drove their way into field goal range, settled for kicks and then missed three of them.


While the Cardinal offense will feature plenty of returning faces, the defense loses so many figures it should be near unrecognizable.

Gone are Henry Anderson, David Parry and Blake Leuders from the front line. At linebacker, A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters have departed. In the secondary, cornerback Wayne Lyons and safety Jordan Richards have also left the building.

All told, eight defensive starters are no longer available for one of the stronger defensive teams in the Pac-12.

That means Stanford will turn towards new talent to populate their defense. The good news for the Cardinal, from this side of the ball at least, is that the defense dominated the offense in the spring game despite being thin in so many areas.

Upfront, Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas, the former of whom saw decent game time in the latter half of last season, seem most likely to step in and fill the void.

Last year’s leading tackler, Blake Martinez, will be back to anchor the linebackers and Shaw has indicated he expects great things from the senior. Kevin Palma, Peter Kalambayi and Noor Davis were not starters last season but each could take the next step forward with plenty of experience as back ups.

The defensive backfield will still feature Zach Hoffpauir at free safety and Ronnie Harris at cornerback, but there is a whole squadron of new talent fighting for the remaining starting jobs who will need to be broken in.

Special Teams:

In losing Montgomery, the Cardinal also lost their main kick and punt returner, though they may have found an heir apparent in McCaffrey, who filled in for him at the end of the season.

The aforementioned three missed field goals, however, indicate that the situation surrounding Stanford’s new kicker is a bit dicey.

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Conrad Ukropina saw game time filling in for now-departed starter Jordan Williamson in 2013, but even then he only converted two of the four field goals he attempted.

Each of the last two games between the Trojans and the Cardinal have come down to field goals, so that is certainly something for Shaw to be concerned about.

Threat Level: Medium

It bears repeating, the last two match ups between these two teams came down to three points each.

Both teams should be stronger than they were last year, but USC stands to take a greater leap forward with so much attrition on defense for the Cardinal.

Relative to the rest of the Trojans’ schedule, especially in the Pac-12, Stanford sits in the middle of the pack.