Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

Just Sayin' . . . Stanford Week

After opening against defending national champion Alabama, USC opens its conference schedule at defending Pac-12 champion Stanford. There seems to be a theme here.

It's on.

After heading to Texas to face Alabama, USC now heads to Palo Alto to open Pac-12 conference play at The Farm Saturday.

And while USC is at least a touchdown underdog to a pretty much of a new-look Stanford team featuring an old-school, well-tested system, a little history might be in order here.

*** For example, as much as the memory of last year's two losses to Stanford while giving up 82 points -- 41 per -- thanks to a standaround Trojan defense that allowed Christian McCaffrey something like a half-mile of return, reception and plain old rushing yards, cannot be erased, those are not the only times these teams have played in recent years . . . Just Sayin'.

*** After all, USC did win the previous two games in this series, even with that same defense of 2015 in one of them, while holding Stanford to a mere 27 points -- 10 in 2014, 17 in 2013 -- while winning both those games . . . Just Sayin.'.

*** And the person who headed up USC's defense in 2013, with a mere dozen defenders at his disposal against a No. 4-ranked Stanford team, is none other than the man who heads up USC this week -- Clancy Pendergast . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Then going back three more seasons, all USC losses by a single score -- one in the infamous "Stanford clock operator game," the second in the oddly-officiated and extended three-overtime loss to Andrew Luck & Co. and the third, a Lane Kiffin second-half brain cramp in a 21-14 game USC should have easily won, this series isn't anywhere nearly as one-sided as some might think it is . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So now here we are. Stanford is flying high after those two straight losses to USC in 2013 and 2014, with a stable, sound, system, a solid head coach in David Shaw and an identity, a personality, USC can only hope to emulate . . . Just Sayin'..

*** And USC is scrambling to find out who it is. Or who it's going to be. And as much as USC wanted to be a physical team that could run the ball first, it's become a physical team that seems to be able to defend the run first. And we'll take that. Especially against Stanford . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Defense keeps you in games. Don't screw up on offense, get something done there, and play shut-down defense and USC will have a chance every time out -- including this week . . . Just Sayin'..

*** But as to USC's offense, we have to say one thing has been especially impressive -- the use of two quarterbacks as much as Clay Helton has said he's not a "two-quarterback" guy, he really is. And that's a good thing . . . Just Sayin'.

*** It's a good thing because now after just two games, redshirt freshman Sam Darnold has had more real game-action experience than Max Browne was given in three years here . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And Helton has managed to do this without it being a negative to Max, who hasn't been replaced for failure to play well but just situationally in the Red Zone and short-yardage where it was clear Sam would be coming in so both get to function in high-pressure moments . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now, just as two quarterbacks can add a degree of difficulty to Stanford's preparation these two weeks, something it has done so well for USC, we'd like to see the Trojans offer the Cardinal something it hasn't seen, something for which it can't specifically prepare . . . Just Sayin'.

*** One thing we'd like to see is in a game where USC might not need a shut-down corner every single play as it did against Alabama All-American Calvin Ridley, maybe this is the time to re-introduce Adoree' Jackson to an offense we'd been led to believe he'd line up maybe five or six plays a game. Maybe now is the time to add in the dozen missed plays to the Stanford game plan . . . Just Sayin'.

*** You saw what Adoree' could do on one punt return, what if USC gets him the ball in places where he can replicate that several more times a game behind wide receivers who look like they can and will block or out front or on a go route where he just beats someone deep . . . Just Sayin'.

*** USC must throw it deep or short middle, not just outside the hashes where Stanford loves to bracket USC receivers with the sidelines. Do something different this year . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Get the tight ends involved. Not sure they've added all that much to the blocking efforts thus far so might as well see if they can get open and catch the ball the way they did in the spring. Again, do something Stanford hasn't seen -- at least from USC. Give them a taste of their own medicine . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We'd also say we'd like USC to go to school on Stanford as far as tightening up the line splits although we're probably not going to win that argument but we'll throw it out there. You want to be a physical, run-first team, look like one, line up like one. Again, give Stanford some of their own medicine . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Sure, the Alabama loss knocked USC out of the rankings and any possibility of a College GameDay appearance here, but a win Saturday puts everything USC wanted from this season back in place. This is no time for holding anything back . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That's the beauty of playing the nation's toughest schedule. Redemption often is just a game away. As it is this week . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Although the downside with getting it all together this week against this schedule is that a trip to a vengeful Utah is just six days away so what happens this week can't just be for Stanford . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Which is why we'll keep preaching the path the USC defense has taken -- play fast, play smart, play simple, play tough and play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Works for us. And works every time it's tried . . . Just Sayin'

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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