USC hopes Pendergast can keep Stanford’s McCaffrey in check

Pac-12 football rewind: Down to the wire in the dead of night

The Nebraska defense will attempt to slow running back Royce Freeman, who now leads all Power 5 backs with 14.4 yards per rush inside the tackles.

And yet, Stanford is 36-9 in its past 45 conference games compared to USC’s 30-15 record. Stanford RB Bryce Love, who missed the Cardinal’s season-opener against Kansas State with a lower-leg injury, made his season debut.

WILD CAFF: McCaffrey had 700 all-purpose yards in two games against USC last season, including 461 in the Pac-12 championship game. But Stanford has emerged as the hot favorite now and David Shaw is a proven head coach while Helton began his head coaching work this season with a 56-6 loss to Alabama. After outside linebacker Su’a Cravens had 13 tackles in the first meeting against Stanford at the Coliseum, Hawkins said Hogan was changing the play at the line of scrimmage to have McCaffrey run away from where Cravens was lined up.

But that was then, and this is now, an unexciting era for USC football. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin is a laid-back personality while defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast offers bland answers to the media on a weekly basis. Now, following a 27-10 loss to No. 7 Stanford on Saturday on the road and another uninspiring defeat to a top-10 opponent, perhaps there is more clarity on how this season will be defined.

“I hope we play that team again, I really do”, USC coach Clay Helton said about a possible rematch in the Pac-12 title game. After not converting for three downs inside the ten, Stanford went for a touchdown on the one yard line and succeeded; McCaffery took the ball and jumped over the line for his second touchdown of the night.

With Stanford playing Ryan Burns, a still largely unproven quarterback, the Cardinal must avoid playing on long fields as much as possible. At least someone at USC was angry Tuesday about the fact Stanford beat the Trojans twice last season. He added another 22 on kickoff returns.

The same goes for Stanford with Jackson.

In a contest that has so frequently gone down to the wire – every installment from 2009-14 was decided by one score – a single special teams play might make the difference.

Deploying a quarterback spy may prevent Darnold from using his feet, but it takes a man out of coverage that can lead to additional space in the secondary. The second touchdown was set up after a good run by McCaffery. Tommy Armstrong and the offense will look to attack a transitioning defense that hasn’t been consistent against the pass or run this season. It may have been an embarrassing loss, but that’s just how good Alabama is.

Browne was constantly under pressure against Alabama and with Chuma Edoga’s status uncertain for the Stanford game, the Trojans may have to rely on Chad Wheeler at left tackle who is still not 100% healthy. He was ejected from the game but won’t face further punishment. Five! Offensive tackle Zach Banner committed two and some National Football League analysts consider him a first-round pick. It’s going to be on graduate transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop to rack up a lot of points and avoid turnovers for the Ducks against a middling Nebraska pass defense to keep OR in this game. Stanford then ripped off four straight victories against USC from 2009-12.

Stanford: TB Christian McCaffrey.

USC started the second half on a high note. A heavy dose of methodical mashing, a bit of everything from Christian McCaffrey and a couple little wrinkles that caught Southern California totally off guard.