USC, Stanford are mutual admiration societies

Woods looks to duplicate last season's breakout game against Stanford, but this time come away with win.

LOS ANGELES – The last time anyone checked, Howard Jones Field is not home to a mutual admiration society. Anyone confused by the fact would be forgiven given the endless praise offered up this week by USC players and coaches for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

"I don't know how you could find a more efficient quarterback that's ever played college football," head coach Lane Kiffin said.

"The guy is on the money with his passes," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said. "You see guys are covered and he throws it right on the back shoulder just like an NFL quarterback would. Last year we had him dead to rights a couple times, we lost contain and the guy makes a big player. I mean he's a great player.

"Not a good player, a great player."

"God, he could have been a great pro player this year," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "Golly. I look at (Carolina Panthers quarterback) Cam Newton. Look what he's doing. Luck could have been there right now."

It's not exactly breaking news, as Luck has thrown for 1,888 yards and 20 touchdowns against three interceptions this season. In three years as a starter, the redshirt junior is 27-5.

He is the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy and all but assured of being the No. 1 overall pick in the next NFL Draft.

But head coach David Shaw of Stanford (7-0, 5-0 Pac-12) found a way to return the favor, lavishing compliments on sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods.

Indeed, it was Woods who arguably outshined his USC (6-1, 3-1) quarterback Matt Barkley and Luck in last season's 37-35 shootout loss in Palo Alto and could be the deciding factor Saturday night (5 p.m., ABC).

In a breakout performance, Woods caught 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. In the fourteen games that followed, the Gardena (Calif.) Serra product has asserted himself as perhaps the best receiver in college football.

"He's a guy that can take over a game and you don't usually say that about a receiver," Shaw said. "You say that about a quarterback, you say that about a running back.

"Robert Woods, and I'm a guy who spent nine years in the NFL evaluating every receiver that came into the draft every single year, he's as good of a route runner at this age as I've ever seen."

Through seven games, Woods has 72 receptions – sixth-most for a USC receiver in a single season – for 902 yards and eight touchdowns, and is on pace to break the Pac-12 records for receptions and receiving yards.

"He has that it factor," Barkley said.

Still, Woods did not make some midseason All-America teams and lacks the profile shared by the likes of Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State or Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma. That could change playing in front of a national television audience against a secondary missing starting strong safety Delano Howell, not that Woods particularly cares.

"It is one of those games," he said. "College GameDay is coming out. Everyone is going to be watching. If I have 5 catches, 36 yards and we get the win, just like the Cal game, I'm going to be very proud of our team.

"I don't care about my stats as long as we get the win."


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