Since the Pac-12 expanded to 12 teams in 2011, only two teams have won the conference title. That could remain the same on Saturday when No.7 Stanford faces No.20 USC in the 2015 Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.
Stanford is looking to win its third Pac-12 title in the last four seasons, and USC hasn’t won a conference championship since 2008. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 North with an 8-1 conference record, while USC’s 6-3 record was good enough to give them the Pac-12 South title.
Stanford has an outside chance to make the College Football Playoff with a win, though the best USC can hope for is a trip to the Rose Bowl.
USC Key Players
With one of the best quarterbacks in college football, USC has a chance to upset Stanford. The Cardinal have allowed at least 36 points in two of their last three games, and Cody Kessler could be poised for a big performance. While the Trojans couldn’t get the job done against Stanford the first time, it wasn’t because Kessler played poorly. The quarterback completed 78.1 percent of his passes for 272 yards, three scores and no interceptions.
Not surprisingly, Kessler’s worst games have come in USC’s losses. Three of his four worst passer ratings came in games that USC failed to win, and his three best quarterback ratings occurred in USC’s three biggest margins of victory. Kessler has thrown just one pick in his last six games.
Stanford Key Players
Kevin Hogan’s numbers haven’t been as impressive as Kessler’s, but the efficient quarterback is still critical to the team’s success. He leads one of the nation’s best offenses, and he completed 18 of his 23 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns when the Cardinal beat the Trojans. Hogan’s two worst passer ratings came in the only games in which Stanford didn’t score more than 30 points. His four-touchdown performance against Notre Dame last week was probably his best of the season.
Hogan has more help than Kessler, considering the Stanford quarterback hands the ball off to a Heisman Trophy candidate. Christian McCaffrey has rushed for 1,640 yards and caught 37 passes for another 450 yards. Between running the ball, catching passes and returning kicks, McCaffrey is just 215 all-purpose yards behind Barry Sanders’ single-season mark. He’s on pace to break the record, averaging 252.9 all-purpose yards per game, and he’s totaled at least 300 yards on four occasions in 2015.
Of the four major conference title games, the Pac-12 Championship Game will begin second. Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN, and a free live stream will be available with WatchESPN.