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Wednesday roundtable: Will McCaffrey repeat his dominance against the Trojans?
Can Stanford expect another huge performance from McCaffrey against the Trojans? (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Wednesday roundtable: Will McCaffrey repeat his dominance against the Trojans?

Wednesday’s for WildCaff. With Stanford’s highly anticipated Pac-12 opener against USC less than a week away, football analysts Vihan Lakshman, Alexa Philippou and Andrew Mather answer a question a day about the Cardinal’s Week 1 performance against Kansas State and the impending battle with the Trojans.


Today’s question: Christian McCaffrey has run wild against Troy in the past, notching 249 and 461 all-purpose yards in Stanford’s two meetings with USC last season. Will the Trojans be able to tame the WildCaff this time around?

Vihan Lakshman: McCaffrey is so versatile and — for a lack of suitable descriptors — freakishly talented that I have a hard time predicting that any defense will truly shut him down. No. 5 will put up numbers, but that doesn’t mean that USC can’t control the damage.

One of the biggest factors in McCaffrey’s success against the Trojans last year was the stellar play of Kevin Hogan in both games. In the Coliseum last September, Hoagie put together one of the best games of his career, going 18-for-23 for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns before following that up with an underrated 9-for-12, 144-yard performance in the Pac-12 Championship, again tossing two touchdowns as well as not throwing an incompletion in the second half. With a proven passing threat in Hogan out of the picture, look for the Trojans to throw everything they’ve got at slowing McCaffrey and to challenge Ryan Burns to make plays through the air. With the extra attention McCaffrey’s bound to receive, I don’t expect him to match the numbers he put up last time, but he will surely make his presence felt.

Andrew Mather: In a word, no. Stanford’s offense may lack the explosiveness of last season, but USC’s defense quite honestly doesn’t appear to have the talent to keep McCaffrey in check. You can’t fault the Trojans too much for failing to keep pace with Alabama, but the bottom line is that their front seven wasn’t particularly impressive last year and appears to have gotten worse. The Trojans might be able to slow No. 5 out of the backfield if they commit anything and everything to stopping him, but even then I would imagine that a few reads by Burns and a few misdirections to Love would turn USC’s efforts into a Pyrrhic victory.

Four hundred all-purpose yards might be asking a little much, but I fully expect McCaffrey to meet — and eclipse — the number from last September.

Alexa Philippou: My answer to this question would depend on how you’d define “tame.” Does taming Christian McCaffrey mean he has a sub-100-yard rushing game? Or does it mirror the way Kansas State handled him last week? Either way, I’ll say this: I don’t foresee McCaffrey being as dominant as he was the last time the two teams met. His 249 and 461 all-purpose yard games last year were when Josh Garnett, Kyle Murphy and Graham Shuler were digging the tunnels. Now, with a less experienced Tunnel Workers’ Union to make holes for McCaffrey, I don’t expect a repeat of the Pac-12 Championship for the AP Player of the Year. Plus, assuming Bryce Love returns from a leg injury that sidelined him against Kansas State, he’ll take some of the weight off of the Wildcaff. That being said, it doesn’t mean McCaffrey won’t still accumulate 200 all-purpose yards (I’m sure he’s still looking for a 97-yard punt return that’ll actually count). And, if the O-line really steps it up and plays well for the entire game, he can rack of the APYs like he did against the Trojans last year.


Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu, Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu and Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu

About Andrew Mather

Andrew Mather served as a sports editor and as the Chief Operating Officer of The Daily. Growing up a devout Clippers and Iowa Hawkeyes fan in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Mather grew accustomed to watching his favorite programs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He brings this nihilistic pessimism to The Daily, where he occasionally feels a strong sense of déjà vu while covering basketball, football and golf.

About Alexa Philippou

Alexa Philippou '18 is a political science major and a former Managing Editor of The Daily's sports section. She switched from the sports section to news her junior year, where she has worked on the university/local beat since. Being from Baltimore, she is a die-hard Ravens and Orioles fan who cried when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. To contact Alexa, please email her at aphil723 'at' stanford.edu.