It seems like just yesterday when the USC Trojans were being led out of the tunnel by loopy head coach Lane Kiffin and now they are led by strong-minded Steve Sarkisian. It also seems like just yesterday when the offense looked doomed for failure and now that is the least of the Trojans’ worries. A week one stomping of Fresno State should ease the mind of Trojan fans everywhere.
Coming off a Rose Bowl loss in 2013, the Stanford Cardinal entered the 2014 season with a lot to prove under a veteran quarterback and one of the best coaches in the nation. Stanford returns one of the best defenses in the nation and it proved that in a week one handling of FCS squad UC Davis.
While it took weeks upon weeks to find a solid starting quarterback in 2013, the Trojans have settled on junior QB Cody Kessler who impressed in a week one blowout. Kessler was responsible for five USC touchdowns as he passed for four and ran one in. The junior racked up 394 yards on 25 of 37 completions to go along with 28 yards on the ground. Former five-star high school prospect John ‘JuJu’ Smith made his first collegiate game look easy, catching four passes for 123 yards while Nelson Agholor had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Javorius Allen led the strong rushing attack, which had 277 yards on the ground as a unit, with 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Stanford also jumped all over its opponent in week one, but the Cardinal faced a far less superior team in UC Davis. The Cardinal, led by quarterback Kevin Hogan, had a lot of rushing yards to replace since Tyler Gaffney departed after last season. Barry Sanders will likely carry the load in the run game this season, but he finished with just 43 yards on a measly seven carries. While the run game was just about average in week one, the passing game looked solid behind Hogan. The third-year starter was 12-16 for 204 yards and three touchdowns while he threw one interception. Stanford will hope that he lives up to his potential this season and lead them to a national title. Hogan’s favorite target, as it will likely be all season, was the electric Ty Montgomery who had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Stanford was one of the best units in the nation a season ago and proved that in the season opener against UC Davis, holding the opponent to just 115 yards of total offense — 54 yards through the air and 61 on the ground. Stanford allowed just six first downs all game to the Aggies. The Trojans faced a tougher opponent in Fresno State, but still held their own, allowing just 317 yards of offense — almost identical numbers allowed against the rush and pass.
The Trojans will travel to Stanford to take on the Cardinal at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 6. The game will be broadcasted on ABC and ESPN 3.
PREDICTION: USC 21, Stanford 27
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.