Stanford will be without starting quarterback T.C. Ostrander when they face USC at the Coliseum this Saturday. Ostrander had a seizure last Sunday and will be held out of action this Saturday as a precaution. Redshirt sophomore Tavita Pritchard will start in place of Ostrander.
Pritchard is a good athlete that played on special teams and even tried to play wide receiver in 2006. The young quarterback has little experience and has only attempted three passes in his career at Stanford.
Look for the USC defense to really crowd the line-of-scrimmage and force Pritchard to beat them with his arm. Playing USC at the Coliseum is the last place you want to break in a new quarterback.
The Stanford running game has been much improved this year under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. The Cardinal is averaging 116.5 rushing yards a game, which is nearly double their average from 2006. After just four games, Stanford already has more rushing touchdowns in 2007 than they had the entire 2006 season.
Anthony Kimble will start at tailback Saturday in place of the injured Toby Gerhart. Kimble is a very dangerous running back. He currently ranks second in the Pac-10 averaging 180 all-purpose yards per game. However, last week against Arizona State, Kimble was held to just 20 yards on 10 carries.
The Trojan defense will key on Kimble and try to limit his production. USC will stack the box and try to stuff the Stanford running game. If the Trojans can shut down the Stanford running game, that will force first time starter Pritchard to beat them through the air, which is highly unlikely.
The strength of the Stanford offense is their experienced group of wide receivers. The Cardinal have a trio of outstanding receivers which is one of the best units in the Pac-10.
Sophomore Richard Sherman leads Stanford in receptions (20), receiving yards (339) and receiving touchdowns (2). After a very productive freshman year Sherman has emerged as Stanford's top playmaker.
Along with Sherman, the Cardinal return senior wide receivers Mark Bradford and Evan Moore. Bradford is second on the team with 16 receptions in 2007 and has 134 receptions in his career at Stanford. At 6-7, senior Evan Moore will create match-up problems for Terrell Thomas and Mozique McCurtis all day.
The Stanford receivers will provide the most difficult challenge of the day for the USC defense.
Stanford has a solid pair of tight ends in sophomores Jim Dray and Ben Ladner. Jim Dray has started the last 15 games at tight end for the Cardinal. Dray has 9 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown this season. Backup tight end Ben Ladner also has nine catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Stanford returns four linemen that had starting experience in 2006 and will have a veteran group of offensive linemen. The problem is the line hasn't had much success in the past. The Cardinal rank ninth in rushing offense in the Pac-10 and are dead last in scoring offense. To make matters worse, Stanford's top offensive lineman, Allen Smith, is out indefinitely with a torn patella tendon. Sixth-year senior center Tim Mattran will have his toughest match-up of the year trying to block defense tackle Sedrick Ellis.
Last week Stanford had a miserable negative two yards rushing against Arizona State. So look for the Trojans to dominate the line of scrimmage and put a lot of pressure on Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard