3 Keys to Beating Stanford

SCPlaybook's Lyle Everett provides the three keys to beating the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford is a perfect 4-0 at home this year and is looking for another major upset of USC. Look inside to see how the Trojans will prevent that from happening.

1) Stop the run – Stanford has a combination of two fine runners who compliment each other in a "thunder and lightning"-type way. USC's defense must stop Toby Gerhart in his tracks. They cannot afford to let him get on an early roll and gain confidence for later in the game. He's been banged up in recent weeks and if SC can shut him down early, they probably won't be seeing much of him late.

The way Anthony Kimble runs upright through holes leaves him wide open for big hits from Trojan defenders. When he spells Gerhart, the Trojans D must lay the wood on him. Look for Taylor Mays to play closer to the line of scrimmage this week so he can continue to deliver monster hits just as he did last week against Cal.

Stanford is 5-1 this season when their rushing attack gains 200 yards or more. That statistic tells us all we need to know about the Cardinal. You stop the run, you shut down their offense and win the game going away. USC's defense realizes this and will be fired up to compete against a quality rushing opponent. When it comes down to it, we like our D giving up 6.7 points per game just fine against anybody in the nation, including Stanford.

2) Loosen up on Offense – I realize this goes against what I've been saying lately, but a football season is a process. The past few weeks I've been calling for Mark Sanchez to take what is being given to him by the defense instead of always looking to go deep. But watching the USC offense last week gut out 17 points was almost depressing.

SC needs to get back to basics and let the players play. I'm not calling for trickeration of any kind. I don't want to see them get cute and line Joe McKnight up in shotgun formation with Sanchez lined up as a receiver. Just go out there and run the offense with a purpose and fluidity.

USC is far too talented on offense to go through the motions like they have. Instead of playing to score points, they've been playing not to mess up. Hesitant football never equates to anything worthwhile, especially when you're in the hunt for a conference championship.

When you look at teams like Florida, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas right now, their offenses are playing loose and genuinely having fun. USC's offense is playing uptight and struggling for every score.

Stanford's pass defense is ranked 113th in the nation. There is no better time than right now for USC to throw the ball down the field and get back to having fun on O. The chest bumps and smiles have disappeared in the last couple of games. When their offense is having fun, they're scoring points and dominating games the way they should be. Let's see some of that this week in Palo Alto.

3) Seek revenge – Some call it the biggest upset in college football history. Stanford, coming into the Coliseum off of a 1-11 season and as 41 point underdogs, upsetting USC 24-23 and ruining their National Championship hopes.

Regardless of what they say in the media, there is absolutely no doubt that USC is seeking revenge this weekend for what happened last year - they wouldn't be human if they weren't. A close game is not going to cut it. Beating them soundly in every facet of the game in front of their home crowd will.

They don't have to talk about it. They don't even have to run up the score. Just punish them for what they did to us last year. Demoralize them. USC need to take it upon themselves to give Stanford the kind of payback that is long overdue.

A year is a long time to sit and think about what could have been had USC not lost to Stanford. National Championship dreams were dashed, replaced by the Rose Bowl against another outmatched Big 10 opponent, all because Stanford beat you at home.

What we often fail to realize is how difficult it is to keep 19 and 20-year olds focused for an entire season and not overlook opponents you know have no business being on the same field as you. But a year later, those same kids mature and realize what they had waiting for them had they just maintained focus. It's time for payback.

Prediction: We respect Jim Harbaugh a great deal as a football coach. Just 18 months in as head coach, he's really turned things around for Stanford. But it's going to take at least another 18 months for Harbaugh to get his kind of player embedded in the program to really compete for a Rose Bowl.

We're going to thoroughly enjoy watching USC's defense play this football game. We truly believe Stanford is the perfect opponent at just the right time for the Trojans. SC is coming off a lackluster 17-3 home win against Cal in which their offense carried with them zero identity. Stanford's pass defense is just the kind USC's offense can get well against. Their offense is the type that Trojan defenders have no problem with. USC's collective manhood will be tested this weekend. Revenge is dish best served cold.

USC 34, Stanford 3

Kyle Moore and USC's defense are looking to shut down Stanford's running game.
(Paul Pinner Photo)

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