It’s the beginning of the end in the Pac-12 for No. 6 Southern California this weekend, and it’s only fitting that it starts with its oldest opponent in the conference: Stanford.
The Trojans and Cardinal have been going toe-to-toe with each other since 1905. They will add a chapter in their storied legacy Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
USC (2-0) has come out hot, albeit against subpar competition. The Trojans overwhelmed their first two opponents — San Jose State and Nevada — by a combined score of 122-42. The offense has been clicking on all cylinders, solidified under center by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.
The No. 1 prospect for the 2024 draft, according to Field Level Media and other outlets, Williams already has thrown nine touchdown passes to five different receivers. Against Nevada, he completed 18 of his 24 pass attempts for 319 yards and five TDs and added a 46-yard scramble in just three quarters.
It’s a stereotypical Lincoln Riley team thus far. The offense is buzzing, but the defense still is the biggest question mark. It’s hard to get a grasp of the defense given the opposition, although Riley has been encouraged with what he’s seen.
“The guys really stepped up and communicated; you saw the run defense was really stout all night. Other than two fade balls we gave up … we played really clean football,” Riley said. “For us, it’s just a steady climb; we can’t beat anyone until we play them. I think we took some really positive steps (against Nevada), but with college football, every week is its own story.”
Stanford (1-0) poses a bigger test for that USC defense this weekend. Last week, in a 37-24 victory over Hawaii, the Cardinal rolled up 406 yards of offense in a balanced attack.
Quarterback Ashton Daniels played well in his first career start, completing 25 of 36 passes with 248 yards and two touchdowns. Daniels also was active on the ground, rushing 11 times for 42 yards.
Daniels already seems to have found a favorite target in senior tight end Benjamin Yurosek, who had nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Rainbow Warriors. It was his career high in receiving yards and one catch away from tying his personal best in catches.
Stanford first-year coach Troy Taylor has to earn his money to return the once-illustrious program to its winning ways. The Cardinal has a 14-28 record in the last four seasons but made a statement in their season-opening win.
“Going in with such a young team, you’re waiting to see how they react to adversity, and when things don’t go their way, they did a great job,” Taylor said. “They hung in there. There were a number of different times when the momentum could have swung the other way, and I thought all three phases of the game were great.”
The Trojans hold the advantage in the all-time series against the Cardinal, posting a record of 64-34-3.
“This will be potentially the last time these schools match up for a long time, and there’s a lot of significance to that,” Riley said. “We need (the Coliseum) rocking next Saturday.”
–Field Level Media