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Football predictions: Stanford vs. USC
Stanford's last two losses to USC were by just a three-point deficit. Could yet another game come down to a single kick? (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Football predictions: Stanford vs. USC

Congratulations to last week’s Stanford Daily Football Predictions Challenge winner, Michael Miyamoto from Mission Viejo, California!

No. 7 Stanford (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) vs. USC (1-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

Vihan Lakshman: Stanford 27, USC 20

Five of the last seven meetings between Stanford and USC have come down to a single score and, often, a handful of plays late in the game. Even the two exceptions – -both of last year’s matchups — were much closer than the final score indicated. I see that trend continuing on Saturday as both of these teams bring an extra fire and physicality into this rivalry game. For all of the pregame attention surrounding the offensive weapons on each squad, the defenses will flex their muscles for much of this battle. In such a tight contest, the Cardinal, playing at home, prevail behind more second-half heroics from Christian McCaffrey, aided by the return of his backfield partner-in-crime in Bryce Love. With the score tied late in the fourth quarter, Ryan Burns etches his name into Stanford-USC lore by leading a long drive to put the Cardinal ahead for good.  

Do-Hyoung Park: USC 24, Stanford 20

The version of the USC Trojans marching into Stanford Stadium this Saturday isn’t the team that the Cardinal vanquished twice last season. This one has been humbled and brought to its knees once already, has been playing with a chip on its shoulder and fire in its veins after it was humiliated by the Alabama-Saban-Kiffin Death Machine in Week 1 and is ready to reestablish itself on the nation scene with a huge road win over a top-10 rival that it almost always plays close. USC’s weakness is on the defensive line, but I’m not fully sold by the performance that the Stanford offensive line put up against Kansas State, and I’m a big fan of the Trojans’ linebacking corps. Stopping the Stanford offensive line is key to winning the game. I’m expecting Stanford to struggle to establish a running game and for USC’s opportunistic defense (which looked really good for a while against Bama before everything imploded) to help keep the Cardinal at bay while Max Browne and Sam Darnold give the Trojans an early lead. Stanford will have to put the game in an experienced Ryan Burns’ hands, and a potential game-winning drive at the end of the game will fall just short as USC gets its redemption.

Andrew Mather: Stanford 31, USC 21

Honestly I was about to call this a USC victory, but then I realized that Stanford literally would have won eight straight games in this series if it had a halfway decent kicker. Conrad Ukropina had a 30-yarder blocked in 2013, and Jordan Williamson missed a 26-yarder in 2014 — Stanford lost both games by 3 points. The Cardinal do have a kicker who’s more than halfway decent now (Ukropina recovered from his imperfect redshirt freshman season to have a nearly-perfect junior one), and I’m not one to quibble with history.

On a more serious note, there’s really not a lot to go on for how good these teams are this year. I grew up in the LA area so I know to be wary of the hype around the Trojans’ so-called “stars” — at least since 2005 — yet on the other hand the Cardinal seemed to make beating a fairly middling Kansas State team much more laborious than anyone cares to admit. If you make me guess, I’d say USC’s defense improves against McCaffrey this year given that they practically hired a new defensive coordinator for the performance, but their offense sputters a little against Stanford’s relatively deep defensive backfield. The Trojans lead at the half, but Stanford comes roaring back in the third and ultimately comes away with a fairly comfortable victory.

 

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