USC vs. Stanford Gameday Guide 2017: Matchups, links, odds and more

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: USC Trojans take to the field for their game against the Western Michigan Broncos at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: USC Trojans take to the field for their game against the Western Michigan Broncos at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

USC vs. Stanford

LA Coliseum | Los Angeles, CA5:30 p.m. Pacific | FOXAll-time Series: 60-32-3Last meeting: Stanford 27-10 in 2016

A week after facing a tougher-than-expected test against the Western Michigan Broncos, USC Football kicks off the Pac-12 slate with a pivotal rivalry tilt versus Stanford.

The Trojans needed a dominant fourth quarter to put the Broncos away, riding a stellar performance from running backs Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr to pull away, 49-31.

Satisfaction after the victory was low around USC, however, knowing that the No. 14-ranked Cardinal were waiting around the corner.

Stanford started their season in Sydney, Australia, blowing away the Rice Owls 62-7 before coming home with a bye week ahead of their trip to Los Angeles.

The last time the Cardinal played in the Coliseum, they bested Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans 41-31 in 2015. Since then Stanford has won two more to extend their winning streak over USC to three games.

Clay Helton’s men of Troy will look to end that streak on Saturday.

Game Day Links:

Preview Podcast:

On the midweek episode of Reign of Troy Radio, co-hosts Michael Castillo and Alicia de Artola dove into the USC vs. Stanford matchup, previewing the Cardinal and chatting with Hank Waddles of

LISTEN: USC vs Stanford Preview

Having trouble? Listen on Blog Talk Radio, iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher.

USC Injury Report:

  • Out for season: LB Tayler Katoa (knee), CB Jonathan Lockett (hip), S Isaiah Pola-Mao (shoulder)
  • Out: LB Matt Bayle (undisclosed), OLB Hunter Echols (hip), DL Liam Jimmons (ankle), OT Nathan Smith (knee)
  • Doubtful: S Bubba Bolden (knee), WR Michael Pittman (ankle)
  • Questionable: WR Keyshawn “Pie” Young (hamstring)
  • Probable: OL Chuma Edoga (knee), TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hip)

Stanford Injury Report:

  • Out for the season: N/A
  • Out: CB Terrence Alexander (arm)
  • Questionable: OL A.T. Hall (undisclosed)
  • Probable: WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (undisclosed), RB Trevor Speights (undisclosed), LB Mike Tyler (undisclosed)

Click here for more details from the USC and Stanford injury reports.

When USC has the ball…

The Trojans are committed to a balanced offense, which may have frustrated USC fans who wanted to see more Jones II and Carr while Sam Darnold and the passing offense were not at their best against Western Michigan.

That balance could work in their favor, or turn into a fatal flaw, when facing the highly-ranked defense of Stanford.

The good news: The Cardinal front seven may be vulnerable to Jones II and the Trojan rushing attack as they work to replace Top 5 NFL pick Solomon Thomas.

The bad news: Stanford’s physical approach in the trenches and consistently strong run defense in recent memory means it’ll take tough blocking and running for USC to get the better of them. Despite the loss of Thomas, the Cardinal can lean on veteran defensive linemen headlined by Harrison Phillips to occupy blockers while a talented linebacker corps plugs gaps.

On the plus side, USC averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year against the Cardinal. The trouble was, they only ran the ball 26 times.

At quarterback, Darnold gives the Trojan passing game a dimension they didn’t have in 2016, but he’ll need his wide receiver corps to cut out the mistakes after a slew of dropped passes in Week 1.

A sharp performance from USC’s receivers is made even more critical because they will be facing one of the most formidable secondaries in the Pac-12 this year.

Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder are set to enter the prime of their careers in 2017 at cornerback while promising junior Justin Reid offers another veteran presence at safety. Those three combined for 22 pass deflections last year.

When Stanford has the ball…

In Week 1, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast got a load of criticism for sticking to the base nickel defense while Western Michigan gashed the Trojans on the ground.

Pendergast’s decision to stick with the 2-4-5 was predicated on the Bronco’s three-wide receiver formations.

He won’t be facing much of that against Stanford, whose power offense will feature fullbacks and two-tight end sets regularly.

As a result, the Trojans are likely to deploy three down linemen to slow the Cardinal.

At the least, USC won’t have to worry about Christian McCaffrey, who made a meal of USC’s defense in 2015 and 2016. However, Stanford does have a ready-made replacement in running back Bryce Love, whose may not have the skillset to match McCaffrey’s, but possesses plenty of speed and home run ability.

Clearing the way for him, the Cardinal have a veteran-laden offensive line which should test whatever combination of defensive linemen, including Rasheem Green, Josh Fatu, Marlon Tuipulotu, Christian Rector, Kenny Bigelow and Malik Dorton, USC throws at them.

Having preseason All-American middle linebacker Cameron Smith from the starting whistle should help the Trojans immensely against Stanford, but the elite defender won’t be able to do it alone.

USC’s secondary will have the job of keeping Stanford’s offense one-dimensional. Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst has more arm talent than Ryan Burns, who the Trojans faced last year.

The Cardinal also boast some new and intriguing passing targets, including freshman receiver Connor Wedington, who had six catches for 82 yards in his debut, and tight end Colby Parkinson, to go along with a stalwart like tight end Dalton Schultz.

Though Iman Marshall, Marvell Tell III and the Trojan secondary limited Western Michigan’s passing offense to 94 yards, Stanford figures to throw a bigger challenge their way.

Odds (USC -5.5):

The Trojans opened as a four-point favorite over Stanford, but the consensus line moved as high as seven points during the week, according to Sports Book Review.

On Friday evening, the line settled back down to 5.5 in favor of USC. The over/under for the game was set at 56 points.