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The Pac-12 features one of the best marquee matchups of the week as the USC Trojans will take on the Stanford Cardinal.
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Adoree' Jackson is probably going to become busier..
USC's multitalented freshman contributed on offense, defense and special teams in the Trojans' 52-13 season-opening victory over Fresno State.
And his role could become larger, especially on offense, Coach Steve Sarkisian said Sunday.
"We're pleased with the first game," Sarkisian, during a teleconference with reporters, said when asked about Jackson. "But I think we're more excited about the future.
Jackson was in for 13 plays on offense, 25 on defense and 14 on special teams.
Jackson caught three passes, including an impressive no-fear catch over the middle on the Trojans' first scoring drive. He also had an 18-yard touchdown catch. Sarkisian said Jackson also was instrumental in clearing space for other receivers to make third-down catches.
Jackson did a solid job at cornerback and returned a punt 10 yards. Afterward, Jackson said he went into the game not knowing how much he would play. "They just told me I was going in the second play of the game," he said.
Jackson could be on the field even more Saturday when the Trojans play their Pac-12 Conference opener at Stanford.
Sarkisian said "I'd like to see his role increased more," on offense and defense. "I think he can handle it," Sarkisian said. "He showed he can handle doing all three phases."
When junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible on the eve of training camp, senior Randall Telfer and Dixon were left as the only two scholarship tight ends on the roster. The Trojans also were relying on senior walk-on Chris Willson.
But Willson suffered a broken foot Saturday.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Dixon showed against Fresno State that he is capable of carrying a heavier load.
His first USC reception resulted in a 22-yard touchdown. Dixon even hopped over a barrier behind the end zone after making the catch.
USC is coming off a 52-13 blowout victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs as 18.5-point home favorites last week, while going OVER the betting total of 58. The Trojans had no troubles getting head coach Steve Sarkisian a victory in his debut, which is important to consider when looking over the college football lines page, especially with quarterback Cody Kessler passing for 394 yards and four touchdowns. USC is 6-5 SU and 2-9 ATS on the road the last two-plus seasons, with the OVER going 6-5 in that situation.
The Trojans set a Pac-12 record in running 105 plays last week—leading directly to 701 yards and 37 first downs. USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor had two touchdown grabs, while running back Javorius Allen ran for 133 yards. In the last 37 contests in this series, the program has compiled a 26-10-1 SU record, but it has gone just 6-5 in its last 11 trips to Palo Alto.
Stanford opens its Pac-12 schedule after coming away with a 45-0 victory over UC Davis as 42.5-point home favorites last week. The Cardinal’s 17-game home winning streak is the nation’s longest, which can’t be ignored when making your college football predictions, especially since they’ve also gone 13-1 in their last 14 games versus ranked opponents at Stanford Stadium. Stanford is 3-0 SUATS when the betting line is between +3 and -3 since the start of the 2012 campaign.
The Cardinal will need a big game from third-year starting quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has compiled a 17-3 record under center as a starter. Stanford all-purpose star Ty Montgomery is one of the more important players to watch, as he had 2,208 all-purpose yards a season ago, which included 61 catches for 958 yards. Entering the season, head coach David Shaw’s 14-4 record against top-25 opponents was the best of any coach at a major conference institution.
Last year the biggest game of coach Steve Sarkisian’s season was lost on the final drive when his Washington Huskies were unable to score one last time and pull the upset at Stanford.
Sarkisian suspected foul play, accusing the Cardinal of faking injuries in order to slow the fast-paced UW offense.
Stanford coach David Shaw bristled at the accusations, saying, “This is one of the most respected programs in the country and I’m not going to put that on the line to beat Washington.”
Less than a year later the coaches are gearing up for a rematch in Palo Alto, a game that will be the first major Pac-12 matchup of the 2014 season.
Both coaches say they have met multiple times since last year’s accusations were levied and that the incident has never come up. Still, last year’s actions only add intrigue to this weekend’s game.
Sarkisian now coaches No. 14 USC, which looked dominant in a 52-13 dismantling of Fresno State. With quarterback Cody Kessler earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors throwing to a cash crop of talented freshmen, the Trojans look like an infant version of the Pete Carroll-led teams of the program’s heyday.
The Trojans could be conference contenders in Sarkisian’s first season at the helm, particularly with No. 11 UCLA looking vulnerable after a less than impressive opener at Virginia. Big things are also expected of Shaw’s No. 13 Cardinal and the schools have developed a bit of a rivalry recently.
The Trojans have dominated the series, like they have against almost all opponents, but Stanford pulled one of the biggest upsets in conference history over the Trojans in 2007, winning 24-23. After losing to USC the following season, Stanford won the next four matchups against the former bully.
The Cardinal are known for their physical play, particularly in the trenches. However, they have also had offensive stars at running back, receiver and quarterback.
“The one thing that makes Stanford difficult is that they’re a lot more multiple than people give them credit for,” Sarkisian said. “Everyone wants to focus on what they do in their big package and when they bring in the offensive linemen, but they do stuff out of the traditional pro-style stuff, they do stuff with two tight ends sets, they do things with three wide receiver sets. So, they give you a lot of looks and they execute it really well.”
Last season USC swung back with interim coach Ed Orgeron leading the Trojans to an upset over Stanford and ending the Cardinal’s national title aspirations.
“I think they’ve all been two really good football teams that have playmakers and also have great defenses, too, make some great defensive plays,” Shaw said during the Pac-12 teleconference. “It’s just been really, really good football and when both teams have been ranked, when one team has been ranked, it hasn’t mattered. The games are tight, the games are exciting, they’re fun to watch. That’s really typified the whole series over the last eight years.”
Both the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal are coming off impressive season-opening wins, but each will face a serious test in an early Pac-12 battle that could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the conference title.
Even though the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins were preseason favorites to win their respective divisions, USC and Stanford are also right in the mix, making this matchup even more important early on.
Point spread: The Cardinal opened as four-point favorites; the total was 55 at Stanford Stadium.
-- Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread
The Trojans could not have looked much better than they did in a 52-13 rout of Fresno State last week, with quarterback Cody Kessler completing 25-of-37 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns and running back Javorius Allen rushing for 133 yards on 22 carries with one score.
That offensive balance is exactly what new head coach Steve Sarkisian was hoping for, and his defense also played very well with four interceptions. All this in the aftermath of USC cornerback Josh Shaw’s indefinite suspension for lying about rescuing his nephew, showing the team was able to rally round the controversy and show team unity together on the football field.
That’s a great sign for Sarkisian, whose Trojans have now covered the spread in six of their last eight games dating back to last season with a 7-1 straight-up mark during that stretch.
-- Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread
The Cardinal routed UC-Davis 45-0 in its season opener. It may not have played the same level of competition as USC, but Stanford still turned in an outstanding all-around effort.
Stanford led 38-0 at halftime with QB Kevin Hogan throwing for 204 yards in the first two quarters while RBs Kelsey Young and Barry Sanders Jr. combined for 80 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The Cardinal enter this game against the Trojans with a lot of confidence against them, knowing Stanford has won four of the last five meetings SU with a 5-2 ATS record in their past seven matchups. Stanford is also 18-1 SU in its last 19 home games and will be out for revenge after losing at USC 20-17 as a 3.5-point favorite last year.
The Cardinal finished a perfect 7-0 SU at home last season, including big wins against UCLA (24-10) and Oregon (26-20).
Bettors will find out just how good these Pac-12 teams are when they face each other, as both were able to rest starters last week to get ready for this showdown in Palo Alto.
The Trojans have won four of the last six meetings there with only one bad game in their past eight overall, including that home victory last season vs. Stanford. Kessler is the better QB of the two and played like it in winning last year, throwing for 288 yards and one touchdown.
Hogan struggled with 127 yards and two interceptions, and former RB Tyler Gaffney (158 yards and two TDs) was the only reason Stanford was able to hang in there. With Gaffney gone, the Cardinal’s inexperience in the offensive backfield will be a concern.
•Stanford is 18-1 SU in its last 19 games at home.
•Southern Cal is 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games on the road.
David Shaw and Steve Sarkisian made clear that any animosity between them is history now that the latter has moved on to coach at Southern California.
Of more concern to both is how a potential matchup between Trojans defensive end Leonard Williams and Stanford left tackle Andrus Peat will affect this weekend's Pac-12 matchup.
Both teams opened the season with blowout victories and figure to be tested Saturday when the No. 13 Cardinal look to extend the nation's longest home win streak to 18 games as it faces No. 14 USC.
Sarkisian coached the last five seasons with Washington, losing four of five matchups to Stanford. He wasn't happy after last season's 31-28 defeat, claiming that the Cardinal were faking injuries in the final minutes as his Huskies attempted to rally with their up-tempo offense.
Both coaches insist that incident is behind them.
"I think, first of all, I have a great deal of respect for David as a coach and as a person," Sarkisian said. "We had a disagreement in the heat of the moment and I think both of us have moved on. We've seen each other on different occasions since then. We were actually in Hawaii together at an event. We haven't spoken on it and I think our relationship is fine. We've moved on."
Shaw echoed those thoughts.
"It was over," the fourth-year Cardinal coach said. "It was in the past. He and I sat together at lunch and breakfast a couple times and talked about a bunch of other things. Our wives are getting to become good friends; they know each other well so there's no animosity whatsoever."
These coaches will match wits in this rivalry for the first time. USC ended a four-game slide to Stanford last season, as the unranked Trojans knocked off the No. 5 Cardinal 20-17.
The key matchup figures to be between Williams and Peat, who are considered among the best in the nation at their respective positions.
"I think they're both two of the better players in our conference," Sarkisian said. "In our conference, you have those kind of weekly matchups that way that people are intrigued by and I'm sure people will be intrigued by that one."
Shaw didn't say whether he would use Peat by himself to slow down Williams, who had an interception and seven tackles as part of a dominant effort in last Saturday's 52-13 win over Fresno State.
"He's a difference-maker," Shaw said. "There's a lot of guys that you notice and there's some guys that you game plan around. He's one of those that you game plan just because he can be so dominant, he can be disruptive."
Peat is the lone returning starter for a Stanford offensive line that has built a reputation for excellence through the years. The new-look unit helped pave the way for 149 rushing yards on 32 carries in last Saturday's 45-0 win over UC-Davis.
That performance graded out as a "solid B," according to Shaw. A better effort is what he is looking for this weekend.
''They play with a chip on their shoulder,'' said quarterback Kevin Hogan about his offensive line. ''They know that we lost all those great guys on the offensive line the past couple years. They want to prove that they're that next elite group, which I think they are. It helps motivate them.''
Hogan threw for three first-half touchdowns - one to Ty Montgomery, who caught five passes for 77 yards and scored on a punt return for the first time.
The Trojans opened the Sarkisian era that same day with their own rout behind Cody Kessler, who threw for a career-best 394 yards with four touchdown passes and ran for another score to earn conference offensive player of the week honors.
"Cody I thought played really tough, played gritty, played smart, possessed a tremendous amount of leadership," Sarkisian said.
Kessler missed part of Tuesday's practice to undergo a procedure on one of his toes. ''I'm 100 percent. I'm fine,'' Kessler said. ''It was just something bothering me.''
Kessler completed 25 of 37 passes last weekend, the same as he did when these teams last met as he threw for 288 yards and guided the Trojans to a winning field goal with 19 seconds left. Hogan was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter as the Cardinal finished with its lowest point total of the season.
These teams have been tied in the fourth quarter in each of the last four meetings.
Stanford's home-field advantage could be nullified a bit since school has yet to start, meaning that many students won't be back yet on campus to attend.