Backup QBs to play big role when No. 23 Stanford visits USC

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              FILE - In this Sept. 31, 2019, file photo, Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis is shown during an NCAA college football game against Fresno State, in Los Angeles. Slovis couldn't believe he woke up last Sunday as Southern California's starting quarterback. With J.T. Daniels out for the season, the freshman backup is improbably in charge when the Trojans face No. 23 Stanford's tough defense. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)
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No. 23 Stanford (1-0) at Southern California (1-0), Saturday at 10:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN).

Line: USC by 1.

Series record: USC leads 62-33-3.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

With difficult schedules ahead over the next few weeks, neither the Cardinal nor the Trojans can afford to open conference play with a loss in their annual way-too-early Pac-12 opener.

KEY MATCHUP

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis vs. Stanford’s defensive front. Slovis, a freshman from Scottsdale, Arizona, will make his first career start after sophomore J.T. Daniels sustained a season-ending knee injury against Fresno State. Slovis has plenty of talent, including the strong arm he showed off on a 41-yard completion to Tyler Vaughns to set up a touchdown in the 31-23 win over the Bulldogs, but his lack of experience will be challenged by the perennially stout Cardinal. Stanford had four takeaways and three sacks in a 17-7 win against Northwestern.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stanford: LT Walter Rouse and QB Davis Mills. Stanford will have first-time starters at two key positions. Rouse replaces preseason All-American lineman Walker Little, who sustained a leg injury against the Wildcats. How the 6-foot-6, 291-pound Rouse holds up against the Trojans’ pass-rush tandem of Christian Rector and Drake Jackson will be critical, especially with starting quarterback K.J. Costello because of a concussion. Mills completed 7 of 14 passes for 81 yards and also lost two fumbles in relief last week.

USC: RB Stephen Carr could be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Trojans’ switch to the Air Raid offense. Carr rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on six carries and had six receptions for 43 yards and another touchdown against Fresno State, proving to be an explosive change-of-pace option behind bruising Vavae Malepeai.

FACTS & FIGURES

Stanford is 4-2 in its past six games at USC, but lost 42-24 at the Coliseum in 2017 in the first of two meetings with the eventual Pac-12 champions. … Slovis was 6 of 8 for 57 yards and one touchdown in relief of Daniels. … Stanford is 13-4 against teams using a quarterback with six or fewer career starts. That total includes a 17-3 win over USC last season in Daniels’ second career start. … USC WR Velus Jones Jr. had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the season opener, joining Anthony Davis, Adoree Jackson and Marqise Lee among Trojans with a 100-yard return. … Cardinal CB Paulson Adebo had two pass breakups and an interception against Northwestern after finishing with an FBS-best 24 passes defended (20 breakups, four interceptions) last season.