So far in 2007 the Stanford defense has struggled in all phases, and the defensive line is an area of particular concern. The Cardinal defense ranks last in the Pac-10 in rushing defense giving up 191 yards a game. This could be a real problem this Saturday when they face the USC offense whose top six rushers all average over 5.3 yards per carry.
On the positive side the Stanford pass rush has been vastly improved under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Stanford already has 12 sacks in just four games this season, which is just two less than their total for the entire 2006 season.
Senior defensive tackle Chris Horn is the captain of the defense; defensive end Pannel Egboh leads the defensive line with 19 tackles, and sophomore defensive end Eric Lorig has looked good since switching from tight end. Last week Lorig had a career-high 8 tackles against ASU.
At linebacker, the Cardinal has a promising young player at middle linebacker (Nick Macaluso) and two experienced players (Clinton Snyder and Pat Maynor) on the outside. Stanford plays an aggressive 4-3 defense, and the linebackers are used in a variety of ways.
Sophomore outside linebacker Clinton Snyder started 11 games in 2006 for the Cardinal. The experienced linebacker is the team leader with 3.5 sacks this season.
Junior linebacker Pat Maynor plays opposite of Snyder and has been all over the field for the Cardinal in 2007. Maynor has 31 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4.5 tackles-for-loss.
In the middle, redshirt freshman Nick Macaluso will get the third start of his young career. Macaluso recorded his first sack of his career last week against Arizona State.
The Trojans physical running game will look to take advantage of the inexperienced Macaluso at middle linebacker. Chauncey Washington will get the majority of the carries against Stanford and should have a very productive game.
Stanford has three veteran cornerbacks who all saw significant action in 2006 but have struggled so far in 2007. Just like the rush defense, Stanford's pass defense has been below average thus far. The Cardinal defense is allowing 264 passing yards per game and has already given up ten touchdown passes.
Wopamo Osaisai is the playmaker of the group. Osaisai has 25 tackles and leads the team with six pass breakups.
Nick Sanchez is the veteran leader of the secondary but missed last week's game against Arizona State due to injury.
After a sub par performance at Washington look for John David Booty and the USC passing game to rebound with a big effort against the suspect Stanford secondary.
Sophomore free safety Bo McNally has been the top performer for the Stanford defense in 2007. McNally leads Stanford with 40 tackles. He is also second on the team with three pass breakups and has an interception. McNally was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles in Stanford's 37-0 win over San Jose St. in week two.
Strong safety Austin Yancy has 12 tackles and 2 pass breakups on the year.
The Stanford defense ranks last in the Pac-10 in rushing defense and is ninth in scoring defense. In the last three conference games Stanford has given up 141 points.
As long as USC plays a disciplined game and avoids making several mental mistakes like they did against Washington, the Trojans should put up a lot of points and come away with a convincing victory over the Cardinal.