Stanford Cardinal team preview

Click below to read a position by position review of the Stanford Cardinal, the next opponent on the USC schedule

Absolutely nothing has gone right for the Stanford Cardinal this season. For starters, the $100-million renovation of Stanford Stadium was delayed, forcing the team to move its home opener against San Jose State to Spartan Stadium. Then, the Stanford band was barred from performing against Navy in the team's actual home opener because of an August suspension. And if the off-the-field problems weren't hurting enough, the Cardinal football team began experiencing a rash of injuries that would be nearly impossible for any other team to duplicate. In fact, to this point in the season, just six players have started each of the first eight games. Stanford is coming off a bye week, so it's possible that some of the injured players will be back for USC. But with the way things have been going for the Cardinal this season, it's just as likely that half the starting lineup will be held out after suffering brain cramps during an O-Chem midterm.

Cardinal on Offense

Quarterback – #13 T.C. Ostrander

After starting the first six games of the season, Trent Edwards suffered a career-ending injury against Arizona, during the first offensive series of the game. The Cardinal offense wasn't exactly clicking with the talented Edwards at the helm, and with Ostrander now manning that post, the offense has been downright abysmal. In the game against the Wildcats, Ostrander and the Cardinal offense limped their way to 52 total yards, the lowest output in 88 years of Stanford football. That number was aided largely by rushing for –6 yards and allowing six sacks. The Cardinal ran just 32 plays during the course of the game. On the bright side, Ostrander out-punted the entire Wildcat offense, with a 54-yard boot on a quick kick.

Ostrander and his offense didn't fare much better against Arizona State the following week. Stanford managed only 145 total yards (although that nearly tripled their output from the previous week), while Ostrander completed 7 of 25 passes for 66 yards and an interception. On the season, he's completed 21-of-52 passes (40%) for 205 yards and two interceptions. He's also been sacked 11 times in limited action.

The numbers may be brutal for Ostrander at this point, but with three full weeks to prepare as the team's starter, his talent should start to show against the Trojans. He's a physically strong guy with a good arm. He can make just about every throw on the field, but it will be his mental strength that will be tested on Saturday. The USC defense has gone up against six straight quarterbacks who have done nothing but make smart, safe throws to protect the football. If the Trojans are able to confuse him with both blitzes and coverages, it could quickly turn into another long day for the Cardinal offense.

Running Back –#26 Anthony Kimble, #7 Toby Gerhart

If T.C. Ostrander is to have any time to get the passing game going on Saturday, the Cardinal running backs must step up in a big way. Anthony Kimble and Toby Gerhart will probably be the only two players to see any significant rushing attempts against the Trojans. These two are very young players, and they haven't exactly provided the explosive attack the Cardinal need. Overall, Stanford is averaging just over 72 yards rushing per game and they have just two rushing touchdowns. One of those scores is by Kimble, while the other came from a fullback who was forced to retire from football after the season's second game.

The Trojans will probably see a lot of Kimble on Saturday, as he has been receiving the bulk of the carries recently. With 83 yards on 11 attempts against Arizona State, Kimble took over the team lead in rushing yards this season, with 290 on 68 carries. He is also a threat out of the backfield. While he doesn't have a catch in the last two games, he's caught 12 passes for 113 yards on the season.

Toby Gerhart is a true freshman who is already making his presence felt in the Stanford offense. This season, Gerhart leads the team with 72 carries and his 280 rushing yards ranks second.

Kimble is a quick, agile runner while Gerhart is much more solid, although Gerhart can certainly open it up as well. Neither runner should have much room to work with on Saturday, however, as the Trojan defense will look to keep both runners well below their season average. But both Kimble and Gerhart will have the ball in their hands, whether it's with screens, draws or swing passes, as the Cardinal will try to offset what is sure to be a motivated Trojan pass rush.

Wide Receiver – #8 Evan Moore, #86 Kelton Lynn, #38 Austin Yancy, #9 Richard Sherman

After missing all but one game last season and the majority of this season with injury problems, Evan Moore returned to the field two weeks ago and caught a pass against Arizona State. The 8-yard gain didn't do much for the final result, but getting Moore back on the field in any shape is a huge plus for the Cardinal offense. He won't be 100% against the Trojans, but if he is the least bit healthy and ready to go, Moore is probably the lone Stanford player who can consistently win a one-on-one battle with a USC defender. At 6-7, with soft hands and a tremendous leaping ability, Moore makes just about every ball a catchable one. A testament to how valuable he is to the Cardinal passing game, Moore was hurt in the season's second game and is still the team's third leading receiver. He is also tied for the team lead with two touchdowns. If, again, if Moore is healthy, expect Ostrander to loft plenty of passes his way, hoping for either a completion or defensive pass interference. Obviously Moore isn't going to be the entire offense, but he can go a long way toward deflecting some of the pressure off the rest of his teammates.

As for the receivers who have actually spent the season on the field, Kelton Lynn has emerged as the team's leading pass catcher. A walk-on who earned substantial playing time due to the team's injuries, Lynn leads the team with 18 grabs for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He was also on the receiving end of the team's longest play from scrimmage this season: a 57-yard touchdown reception against Notre Dame on a halfback option pass. Though, with the team's offensive struggles over the past two games, by Saturday, Lynn will have gone nearly a month without catching a pass in a game.

Austin Yancy and Richard Sherman are two freshmen who will challenge the Trojan secondary with their height. Both players check in over 6-3 and they have each been on the receiving end of 14 passes this season.

Tight End – #83 Jim Dray

Jim Dray is the team's top tight end this season. His 16 receptions rank second on the team, and he is the only Cardinal with a reception in each of the team's eight games. He isn't nearly the passing game threat that some of the other Pac-10 tight ends are, but he has shown a knack for getting open this season.

Offensive Line – #67 LT Allen Smith, #59 LG Josiah Vinson, #60 C Alex Fletcher, #79 RG Ismail Simpson, #63 RT Chris Marinelli

Allen Smith and Alex Fletcher are two of those six players who have started every game this season. Josiah Vinson and Ismail Simpson each have five starts under their belt this season, while Chris Marinelli has earned the nod in the last two games. As a unit, the offensive line has been pretty uninspiring this season. They've allowed 33 sacks this season and the running game is averaging just over 2-yards per carry. After remembering how to get to the quarterback against Oregon State, the Trojans should be more than ready to take on this Cardinal front five.

Cardinal on Defense

Defensive Line – #95 Chris Horn, #54 Ekom Udofia, #91 Pannel Egboh

With just three sacks between them, the defensive line has done almost nothing this season in terms of getting to the quarterback. Chris Horn and Pannel Egboh are solely responsible for that number, having registered 1.5 sacks apiece. They are also tied for the lead among linemen with 3.5 tackles for loss, while Egboh leads the line with 34 tackles.

The Cardinal utilize a strict 3-4 alignment with Ekom Udofia at the nose tackle position (Although occasionally, Udofia's brother, Udeme Udofia, will shift down from his outside linebacker position and play more as a defensive end). Ekom Udofia is a tremendously talented player, but he's still young and not quite physically ready to man that position by himself. As a result, the run defense has suffered. Stanford is dead last in all of college football in stopping the run this season, allowing over 255 yards on the ground per game. Obviously, that's not all Udofia's fault, but without a true run stopper in the middle of the line, the Cardinal have been hard-pressed to keep the opposition's rushing attack to a minimum.

Linebackers – #20 Clinton Snyder, #55 Michael Okwo #48 Mike Silva, #90 Udeme Udofia

Michael Okwo is the most dynamic player for the Cardinal defense. Forced to miss the first two games of the season with a fractured thumb, Okwo has come on strong since then. He leads the team with 66 tackles, and is first in the Pac-10 conference with 11 tackles per game. He is also one of the Stanford linebackers who will blitz at any time and has picked up a sack among his four tackles for loss this season. Mike Silva pairs with Okwo in the middle and although his numbers seem to be down, it's because he's been coming off the bench in recent games. He's a very smart player who understands the game and has the skills to fill a hole in the run game or knock down a pass in coverage.

Clinton Snyder will line up at outside linebacker and is another guy who will alternate between dropping back in coverage and rushing the passer. This season, he has one of the team's four interceptions and leads the Cardinal with two forced fumbles.

Udeme Udofia is an outside linebacker, but will act as a defensive end occasionally. He is extremely quick for a man of his size and can make plays all along the line of scrimmage.

Cornerbacks – #31 Wopamo Osaisai, #14 Tim Sims

Wopamo Osaisai is a track star playing football. He is the fastest Stanford player and is beginning to translate that into football speed. He leads the team with four pass breakups and returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown against Arizona. He has no problem sticking his nose in and making a tackle, racking up 35 of them this season, including two behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, both Cardinal cornerbacks are both quick and physical. Tim Sims leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss while adding three pass breakups.

As a team, Stanford ranks 34th in the nation in terms of pass defense, allowing just over 170 yards per game. It will be interesting to see if the Trojans attempt to establish their offensive passing attack early, or if they go with the running game straight away, something that has proven to work against the Cardinal.

Safeties – #23 Brandon Harrison, #24 Trevor Hooper

Brandon Harrison is one of the team's most experienced members of the secondary and arguably the most talented. On the season, he has 57 tackles, two pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery. He will be in on quite a few tackles, but he isn't a real imposing safety, as he plays the position more as a cornerback.

Trevor Hooper is another guy who will be busy on Saturday. His 63 tackles this season are good for second on the team, but he, like Harrison, won't really deter Trojan receivers from going over the middle.

When the Trojan passing game found its groove against Oregon State, the Beaver secondary could do absolutely nothing to stop it. Against the Cardinal, Booty and his receivers should be able to develop that same kind of success. But, again, loading up on the running game could be awfully tempting for the Trojans.

Cardinal on Special Teams

Kicker – #11 Aaron Zagory, #12 Derek Belch

Aaron Zagory's 23 points this season lead the Cardinal. He has connected on 8-of-10 extra point attempts and 5-of-8 field goal tries. His long for the season is 35 yards and he's also had one blocked.

Derek Belch handles the kickoffs for the Cardinal. He's forced 7 touchbacks on 20 attempts this season.

Punter – #27 Jay Ottovegio

Jay Ottovegio is a very solid punter. He's kicked 37 times this season and, although he's had one blocked, is averaging over 40 yards per kick with a long of 52. He's forced 8 fair catches and only had one kick go into the endzone.

Something to watch for on Saturday, however, is the quick kick, where the offense takes the field on a fourth down or very long third down and the quarterback simply punts the ball over the head of the defense. Cardinal quarterbacks have done that three times this season and they've been very successful each time. Trent Edwards had two kicks (56 and 54 yards) while T.C. Ostrander has already done it once for 54 yards.

Kick Returner – #34 Ray Jones

Ray Jones leads the Cardinal with 11 kick returns for 181 yards. Anthony Kimble and Jason Evans have also spent time as return men this season. The longest return between the three of them is Evans' 32-yard return.

Punt Returner – #36 Chris Hobbs

Chris Hobbs hasn't done much as a punt returner this season, averaging just 4.8 yards on his six returns. He certainly isn't the threat that Oregon State's Sammie Stroughter was, but he is capable of breaking one if the Trojans' bring the same kind of effort.

Outlook –

If the Trojans come out flat against Stanford, lose the turnover battle 4-0 and give up a punt return for a touchdown, they'll have a hard time winning this game. If they play the entire first half the way they finished the Oregon State game, Stanford will have a hard time convincing themselves to come back out after halftime.

Don't expect the Stanford offense to look quite as bad as they have in the previous two games. The new starters have had a few weeks to regroup and start working toward some new goals this season. But, with that said, I'd still be surprised to see them put up more than a handful of points on Saturday. Injuries have left them too thin, especially on offense.

This should be a game where the Trojans can get rolling downhill as they prepare for those final four games on their schedule. If this game against Stanford is anything more than a glorified bye week, the Trojans will need to do some serious regrouping.


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