• John Skinner

2016 Stanford Preview

Special teams continues to impress…hats off to Coach Baxter: Special teams continued its solid play right out of the gate with a blocked punt deep in Utah State territory.  Adoree’ Jackson had a 77 yard punt return for a TD and K Matt Boermeester hit six touchbacks on eight kickoffs.  One of the quickest ways a team can improve its fortunes is through solid special teams play and in two games it is the Trojans most impressive unit.  If the Trojans can keep the ball away from McCaffrey in the kicking game while creating another big play scoring opportunity, SC should be in position to pull off the upset.

Stanford solely focused on football:  Stanford has yet to start classes.  They are 7-1 in its last 8 games against teams that are enrolled in classes like USC.  However, that loss was to SC in 2013…

Pro Scouts prediction: A scout/assistant from an AFC West team feels SC will be in the game into the second half but Stanford will probably pull away with a double digit victory.  He feels SC will wear down in the interior and lack the discipline and interior line depth/talent needed to win this type of game.

However, he did feel that if SC can play disciplined and stick to the defensive game plan employed by Pendergast, they have the athletes on offense and are a solid enough pass blocking team to pull off the upset.

Pro Scout says don’t sleep on Stanford back-up RB: Stanford back-up RB Bryce Love was spectacular in camp.  He was injured and did not play vs. Kansas State but expected to play tomorrow.  Described by Stanford coaches as another “special back”.  He could strike for a big play when McCaffrey is out of the game. . .

Gold Sheet Prediction: Stanford 30 vs. USC 17- Analysis: SC continues to have O-line issues and Troy’s defensive performance did not inspire much confidence in keeping Christian McCaffrey under control.  Both teams are dealing with QB inexperience.

Spread movement: SC opened as a 6.5 point underdog and the spread has since grown to 9 points.

Fun Fact: Since 2010, the average margin of victory in the Stanford/SC match-up is 5.5 points.

Boy have things changed in ten years:  Stanford has gone from being the worst team in the conference to a program that according to Clay Helton, SC is trying to emulate, with a Heisman contending running back, true toughness and dominant line play.

Advantage at QB/WR and upgraded defensive coordinator might give SC the chance to pull off the upset:  Stanford QB Ryan Burns had a solid outing (14-18, 156 yards) against a decent Kansas State defense in Stanford’s opening week win. However, the SC defense should prove to be a stiffer test and new SC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has had success against Stanford. He shut down a vaunted Stanford offense in a 13-10 victory in 2013 despite only using 12 players when he was the DC under Lane Kiffin.

From a passing game perspective, both Max Browne and Sam Darnold have played against the best defense in college football and have two games under their belt compared to Burns single game.

Also, Ju Ju Smith-Schuster is the ultimate competitor.  Some scouts labeled him “over-rated” this week.  Don’t be surprised if this phenomenal athlete has a big-time performance to prove a point. Also, SC offensive coordinator Tee Martin has been under fire for not targeting him more in the offense.

Why SC may lose by double digits:  SC’s Offensive line vs. Stanford Defensive line: Despite losing defensive stud Blake Martinez, Stanford had 10 tackles for loss against Kansas State and only four teams playing against power 5 opponents have more tackles.  This is a little scary considering SC ranks among the worst teams in the country when it comes go giving up tackles for losses.  They’ve allowed 18 through two games and they weren’t all against Alabama. It was an even split, with nine to both Alabama and Utah State. The loss of C Toa Lobendahn doesn’t help matters but Stanford starting DL Harrison Phillips has been ruled out of the game with a knee injury.

It’s all about McCaffrey:  The man who should have won the Heisman trophy last year, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, touched the ball on 58 percent of Stanford’s offensive plays vs. Kansas State.  SC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is well aware of this and for SC to have a shot on Saturday they will need to limit the touches of the NCAA’s season record holder for all-purpose yards.  McCaffrey had 461 all-purpose yards in Stanford’s 41-22 victory over SC in the Pac-12 championship game last season.

Will LB Cameron Smith be the difference vs. McCaffrey- LB Cameron Smith was out with a torn ACL when SC played Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. McCaffrey only rushed for 115 yards in the first match-up last season in which Smith played and SC lost 41-31…he ran for 207 yards in the Pac-12 championship and Stanford’s 19 point victory.

Clearing up a few comments made by JK McKay in an interview on ESPN radio: I want to stress that McKay made some very fair points in regards to SC’s struggles in terms of still dealing with the ramifications of the sanctions and of his support of Helton’s hire. McKay is a great Trojan and did a PHENOMENAL job as a mentor and father figure for many players while overseeing the football program.

However, his comment that most coaches did not want the job when they hired Sarkisian is not true. They didn’t conduct much of a search as Sarkisian was the administration’s top choice within weeks of the firing of Kiffin (some say within days) and quite a few top ranking coaches were aware of this.  Coaches like Jack Del Rio, the now popular coach of the Raiders, wanted the job but was only given a courtesy interview.

Secondly, comparing Clay Helton in his first year to Nick Saban when he was at Michigan State is awkward at best.  You can survive three to four years of mediocrity at Michigan State to build a program…you can’t do that at SC.  Helton is a good coach and we all hope he is the next Nick Saban but getting your feet wet at a place like Michigan State is a lot different than at SC.

Entrance into the Coliseum for SC games needs to drastically improve: It was a very frustrating experience to enter the coliseum last Saturday.  It took many people over 30+ minutes to enter the coliseum thanks to new security measures now that SC is playing in a professional stadium.  With only about 45K to 50K fans attending the game, how long will it take when they draw 75K+?

They will need to open more gates for entry and create some type of system that doesn’t have thousands of people literally sandwiched together trying to enter the stadium.  In this unfortunate world of terrorism that we live in, this mass of humanity in tight and unsecured quarters is an inviting and unprotected target.