There were some things that may prove to be very troubling for Southern Cal going forward after their 21-14 defeat to Stanford tonight:
- The Trojans are able to be confused
In the fourth quarter tonight, Matt Barkley had the look of a quarterback that had no idea where the rush was going to come from. The USC line had no idea who to block and which defenders were laying off. Barkley was under a heavy rush on both of his completions on the last drive. There were defenders free to hit him on every play.
It is said that one of the advantages to coaching at a school like Stanford is that there is little fear of schemes being completely over the heads of the players because if they’re smart enough to go to that school, then they are smart enough to handle whatever the coaching staff throws at them strategy-wise. Stanford was clearly mentally tougher than Southern Cal tonight.
- Stanford clearly beat Southern Cal in the trenches
The offensive and defensive lines of Stanford clearly beat Southern Cal’s throughout the game, especially in the second half. Southern Cal averaged less than one yard per carry on twenty-seven attempts for the game. That wasn’t supposed to happen this year after the addition of Silas Redd from Penn State. This was supposed to be a team that now had all the pieces in place, but the running game obviously needs work.
Stanford averaged 5.3 yards per carry on thirty-eight attempts. More importantly, Stanford was able to run the ball when they had to in the fourth quarter. Stanford wasn’t able to score on that drive to put the game away, but they won the field position battle (USC had to start their final drive from their own twelve) and sent the message that they were not going away easily. On a day when your quarterback completes less than 50% of their passes (as did both teams), you have to be able to run the ball. Stanford could. Southern Cal couldn’t.
- Stanford played like an excited team that was having fun, and USC played stiff
One of the advantages of being a traditional ‘little brother’ team (Michigan State, UCLA, Oregon State, Pitt, Texas A&M, or Oklahoma State to name a few) is that you can go into a lot of games with the attitude and feeling of having nothing to lose. In the second half, Stanford played the game like they had nothing to lose. USC looked like they wanted to be anywhere but there. Southern Cal’s body language didn’t make them look like they wanted to beat Stanford; they just wanted to get past them and survive. Stanford looked like there was nowhere else they would rather be than right there at Stanford Stadium. Attitude and state of mind are extremely underrated when it comes to sports, and the Stanford players had a very advantageous mindset.
At the end of the day, this was a nice early season seven-point conference win for Stanford. I’m not saying that Southern Cal is going to take a nosedive, but they were many people’s pick for the national championship this year. That is still possible, but it just became a little bit harder now, and USC has some work to do.