USC (8-4, 6-3) vs Stanford (10-2, 8-1)
When: Saturday, December 5th 2015
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Time: 7:45 ET | TV: ESPN
The USC Trojans will try an derail any chances Stanford has at getting into the College Football Playoffs when they meet for the PAC 12 Championship in Santa Clara, California. The Cardinal still have a shot if they beat USC and either Alabama or Clemson loses. I still think its a long-shot, but stranger things have happened. Stanford lost their season opener 16-6 at Northwestern, but since then have won ten of their last eleven and have scored over 30 points in every one of those games including a 41-31 win at USC on September 19th. In that game, quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 279 yards and Remound Wright rushed for three touchdowns as the Cardinal rallied from an early 11-point deficit to beat the Trojans. Hogan passed for 269 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s 38-36 victory over Notre Dame, which kept the Cardinal’s playoff hopes alive. Running back Christian McCaffrey leads the FBS with 252.92 all-purpose yards per game and needs 216 more to break the NCAA record of 3,250, set in 1988 by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders. Linebacker Blake Martinez has a team-high 121 tackles to lead the defense, which has allowed an average of 478 yards over the last three games without cornerback Ronnie Harris, who could return from an ankle injury to face the Trojans on Saturday.
USC completely changed their season around after firing head coach Steve Sarkisian after a 17-12 loss to Washington on October 8th. The Trojans have relied more on a solid running game since Clay Helton took over and have outrushed their opponents in all seven of his games. Running back Justin Davis gained 130 yards on 25 carries for his second straight 100-yard performance in last week’s 40-21 win over rival UCLA. USC ran the ball 59 times and held it for 40 minutes – something they will try to duplicate against Stanford. Two-way player Adoree’ Jackson has returned a punt for a touchdown in back-to-back games and ranks as the only player in the country with 300 yards receiving, 500 in kickoff returns, 200 punt-return yards and 20 tackles. Quarterback Cody Kessler threw four interceptions in back-to-back losses before Sarkisian was fired, but has since thrown 10 TD’s to only one interception. Linebacker Cameron Smith was named Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year after recording a team-leading 78 tackles and three interceptions for the Trojans this season. USC is looking for its third PAC 12 Championship in the last four years.
Stanford is the better team here, but USC is really on a roll with nothing to lose. Stanford is going to be scoreboard watching and if things don’t go their way on the other side of the country, they might lose interest. I’ll take the points.
Pick: USC +4.5