This year, the Trojan squad once again is a force to be reckoned with. In each of the last four years, USC has had, on average, the most talented recruiting class if one uses the metric of “average stars” on either Rivals or Scout. com. USC seemed to be living up to the fullest of its potential early in the season. In front of a national audience in what many thought could be a preview of the BCS National Championship Game, the Trojans beat up fifth-ranked Ohio State 35-3.
While three out of the last six Heisman Trophy Winners have worn the Trojan uniform, this year’s team has no stars. The 2008 Trojans are a solid team USC-Stanford Preview at every position. Quarterback Mark Sanchez generated some pre-season Heisman talk, but is unlikely to receive many votes this year, as he is 29th in passing yards and 11th in touchdowns. Nevertheless, the offense, which averages 37.7 points per game, presents a formidable challenge. Still, what is amazing about the Trojan squad this season is its defense; USC has shut out opponents in three of its last five games. They will certainly test Toby Gerhart and Stanford’s rushing attack.
While the level of talent may seem unstoppable, USC is not perfect. In the game following the Ohio State blowout, for example, the Trojans lost 21-27 to the Oregon State Beavers. Stanford, meanwhile, beat Oregon State 36-28. Looking at the transitive nature of those two events, it would suggest that Stanford would have a shot at beating USC. Still, USC is difficult to beat when they play their best. While the Trojans’ vulnerability to upsets by lesser opponents reveals a lack of consistency, they tend to outperform marquee opponents.
Stanford will most likely need USC to make some mistakes. In the loss to Oregon State, USC had two turnovers while Oregon State had none. Also, their defense gave up 176 yards rushing to PAC-10 leading rusher Jacquizz Rodgers. If Stanford is able to play a game without unforced errors and establish the running game through a hopefully healthy Gerhart, we just might have another victory rally.