Keys to the Game: No. 2 USC at No. 16 Stanford

By Chris Huston | College Football Writer

USC wide receiver Marqise Lee gets yardage after the catch against Hawaii in the Trojans' Sept. 1 season opener. (US Presswire)

No. 2 USC at No. 16 Stanford, 7:30 p.m. ET, on FOX.

USC WILL WIN IF: The Trojans can successfully exploit the suspect Stanford secondary. The dynamic receiving duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee combined for 16 catches against the Cardinal last season, and those two players should again be the focal point of the USC offensive game plan. The Cardinal secondary has struggled, allowing opposing quarterbacks from Duke and San Jose State to complete 67.3 percent of their throws. If USC feeds the ball to Lee and Woods enough, it should be able to break off some big gainers.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: It can get consistent pressure on USC quarterback Matt Barkley. The Cardinal have one of the best front sevens in the country, and they'll need to keep Barkley from getting into a comfort zone. A good pass rush will take away Barkley's deep drops and force him to be patient in working the short passing game. It's easier for Stanford to contain Woods and Lee closer to the line of scrimmage than down the field in open space. And maybe Barkley presses the issue too much and makes some unforced errors.

X-FACTOR: Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes. If Stanford's new quarterback plays anywhere near the level that Andrew Luck did against USC the past three seasons, then the Cardinal have a chance to win. Nunes improved a bunch from Week 1 to Week 2, but he's still a mystery as a player. He'll need to come through with a special performance on Saturday to beat the Trojans.

 
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