11/16/2013 10:08 AM
No. 4 Stanford Cardinal at USC Trojans
Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The Cardinal have owned the Trojans recently, winning four straight games including last year when they upset then-No. 2 USC 21-14 in a game that started the Trojans' downfall under Lane Kiffin.
This year Stanford enters the game in control of its Pac-12 destiny after the upset of Oregon last week. On defense, the Cardinal are generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, having totaled 30 sacks, and have only allowed nine sacks on offense. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has not had to do much in the passing game the last two weeks as he has attempted a combined 31 passes.
On the other side, interim head coach Ed Orgeron is doing a tremendous job as the Trojans are just two missed field goals versus Notre Dame away from being 5-0 under his direction. They are getting production from all three phases. Quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 31 of his last 38 passes. The defense, outside of the Arizona State meltdown, is allowing just 13 points per game, and last week the special teams accounted for three touchdowns including two punt-return TDs by Nelson Agholor.
When you combine the first three quarters of their games against both Arizona State and Oregon, the Cardinal have arguably played the best six quarters of any team this year. However, outside those two games they have been outgained by 210 yards against Washington, were upset at Utah and had to hold on in the closing minutes against Oregon State. The Trojans are playing with a lot of confidence right now and catch the Cardinal in a perfect spot as many are debating whether they should be ranked ahead of an unbeaten Ohio State team. That debate will become a moot point come Saturday night.
Pick: USC 20, Stanford 17