Posted by Chip Patterson
STANFORD WILL WIN IF: They can lock down defense on Robert Woods and shut down the Trojans' passing attack. The Barkley to Woods connection has been phenomenal all season, and the Trojans' rushing attack has not demonstrated enough consistency to really be a threat. Stanford's offense showed off the ground attack in the rout of Washington last week, and as long as the defense can neutralize Barkley they should avoid an upset on the road. The streak of beating their last 10 opponents by at least 25 points may come to a halt against the Trojans, but if the defense can limit USC to less than three touchdowns Andrew Luck and Co. should have no trouble taking care of the rest.
USC WILL WIN IF: They can force Stanford to commit turnovers and claim an early lead. With the NCAA sanctions preventing them from a Pac-12 title game appearance or bowl game, conference showdowns like this take a new level for the Trojans. USC has forced 10 turnovers in their last three contests, and nothing would fire up the Coliseum crowd quite like an interception of Andrew Luck. One thing Stanford has not been forced to do once this season is overcome a deficit on the road. Jumping out to an early lead would break the norm for the Cardinal. When trying to defeat a team in the midst of a 15-game winning streak, you would like to make the situation as abnormal as possible.
X-FACTOR: Robert Woods' health. Head coach Lane Kiffin says the star wide receiver has "a couple of injuries" and will miss some practice time this week. Woods is expected to play against the Cardinal on Saturday, but how effective he can be will play a huge role in USC's chances to pull the upset at home. Woods leads all Pac-12 receivers with eight touchdowns and 72 receptions on the season, while his 128.9 yards per game only trails Keenan Allen's 129.4 for the top spot. Freshman Marquise Lee has served as a talented compliment to Woods on the outside, but has only six receptions in his last two games.
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Keys to the Game: Stanford at USC
Posted on: October 25, 2011 5:20 pm