In only the second week of the college football season, USC and Stanford will square off Saturday afternoon at Stanford Stadium in an early test that could have both national title and Pac-12 implications.
Rarely do two titans like these programs face such formidable rivals this early in the schedule, but Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and Cardinal coach David Shaw will send out two of the most talented squads in the country, hoping to gain an early edge in the race for the Pac-12 title and the inaugural playoff system.
The Cardinal are also riding a 17-game home winning streak. USC hasn’t claimed a victory at Stanford since 2008, but they did spoil the Cardinal’s national title hopes with a stunning 20-17 victory at the Coliseum last year.
USC did have two early injury scares just days after smoking Fresno State 52-13 in their opener. Junior quarterback Cody Kessler, who fired off 394 yards and four touchdowns, underwent a minor procedure for a toe “issue” and missed part of Tuesday’s practice according to the Los Angeles Times, but he’s still expected to play against the Cardinal. Junior defensive end Leonard Williams missed Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury but participated in Thursday’s workout.
The Trojans are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, especially with receivers JuJu Smith and Adoree’ Jackson and running back Javorius Allen (133 yards and 1 TD on 22 carries versus Fresno State), but without Kessler under center Sarkisian likely would have been forced to start freshman Max Browne too early in the season.
An All-American last season, Leonard anchored a USC defensive unit that was ranked in the top three in total, pass and scoring defense in 2013. He totaled 74 tackles and led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss and came up with 6.0 sacks.
Stanford looked unstoppable in its 45-0 win over UC Davis, highlighted by receiver Ty Montgomery’s 60-yard punt return and 44-yard reception, both for touchdowns. The senior made four other catches, totaling 77 yards, and quarterback Kevin Hogan went an efficient 12-for-16 for 204 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. The defense looked just as dominant as last year’s conference-best crew, allowing UC Davis one third-down conversion and surrendering only 115 total yards.
Updated Betting Odds: Stanford -3
Over/Under: 55 points
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST
Prediction: Stanford over USC, 27-26
TV Channel: ABC
Live Online Stream: ESPN3 will have a live stream available here