Stanford back at Coliseum 10 years after historic USC upset
LOS ANGELES (AP) Although nearly a full decade has passed, Stanford’s victory over Southern California in 2007 still seems downright preposterous.
The 0-3 Cardinal entered the Coliseum as 41-point underdogs and ended the Trojans’ 35-game home winning streak with one of the most incredible upsets in college football history, 24-23. Stanford has largely controlled the century-long series between California’s private school powers ever since, winning eight of the last 11 meetings.
”I like to call that game the beginning of our program,” said Stanford coach David Shaw, who was Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator when backup quarterback Tavita Pritchard led the Cardinal past Pete Carroll’s powerhouse.
When No. 14 Stanford (1-0) returns to the Coliseum on Saturday night to resume its season after a trip to Australia, the sixth-ranked Trojans (1-0) will have a 10-game winning streak and their annual hype as the preseason Pac-12 favorite.
But no result is an upset in this rivalry anymore. The past decade of struggle in this matchup still hangs over the Trojans, who pay the proper respect to Stanford’s transformation.
”We know how good they are at every level of the game,” USC receiver Deontay Burnett said. ”I commend that defensive secondary, and Stanford is just a great university and a great program.”
Here are more things to watch in USC’s visit from its oldest rival:
EARLY BELL: This rivalry matchup has also become the unofficial start of the Pac-12 season, since both schools’ series with Notre Dame essentially requires them to play an early-season conference game against each other. So while Stanford only had its blowout Down Under win over Rice to prepare, USC had only a week to work on the gaping holes in its run defense exposed by Western Michigan in the Trojans’ season-opening victory over the defending MAC champions.
RUN AWAY: The Cardinal are a stern test for any run defense, and Bryce Love’s 180 yards rushing in the season opener proved he can be a capable replacement for Christian McCaffrey, who torched the Trojans for 172 of Stanford’s 302 yards on the ground in this rivalry last season. The Trojans yielded 263 yards on the ground to Western Michigan, but improved after halftime when linebacker Cam Smith returned from a 30-minute suspension. Their run defense was expected to be a strength, but the Trojans must find their defensive groove quickly against the Cardinal, whose power running sets should allow the Trojans to use their base defense more often.
RUNNING ANSWER: The Trojans also could answer Stanford’s running game with their own ground attack built around Ronald Jones II, who kicked off his junior season with an outstanding 159-yard, three-touchdown performance against Western Michigan. Jones added muscle to his frame in the offseason, and it showed in the durability compounding his usual speed. Freshman Stephen Carr also will be ready to contribute after getting 69 yards and two TDs in the opener.
PASSING FANCIES: Keller Chryst passed for 253 yards and didn’t make a turnover in Stanford’s season opener, but the Trojans’ secondary and pass-rush present more challenges in his second game back from knee surgery. Chryst also will get receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside back from injury. Both quarterbacks are getting their first good looks at their rivals this weekend: Chryst didn’t face USC last season, while Sam Darnold only played as Max Browne’s backup against Stanford.
SAM HE IS: Darnold didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the opener for the first time during USC’s winning streak, but he also improved as the game wore on. The touted junior attributed his slow start to a case of nerves from his first season opener as the Trojans’ No. 1 quarterback, but his teammates and coaches are confident he’s over it now. ”If there’s one person that’s always harder on himself than anyone, it’s Sam Darnold,” USC coach Clay Helton said. ”And that’s one of the reasons I love him.”
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-Top25