Skip to main content

USC vs. Stanford Preview: Revenge On The Farm

Matt Barkley & Co. want this one badly.

There's no doubting the ever-spirited USC/UCLA rivalry will remain, but a recent history of poor-quality football from their cross-town rival has reinstated a different rivalry game for the Trojans. Quite a bit further up the interstate lies Stanford University, a lingering item on the to-do list for a team who's done just about everything.

Thanks to an impressive offense led by one of the best college quarterbacks we've ever seen (Andrew Luck), the Cardinal enjoyed three years as PAC-12 heavyweights. That's three years of losses, ending in a triple-overtime heart-breaker for USC. That's three years when the Trojan's just happened to be penalized and effectively placed on temporary league-royalty probation. That's three years of Matt Barkley and Co. patiently awaiting their return to center stage.

It's only been one year since running back Curtis McNeal fumbled the ball in the end zone, signaling the end of that triple-overtime battle that had just about the entire state of California on its feet. Only one year since Andrew Luck captivated audiences and snagged a seat in New York for a ceremony Matt Barkley didn't get an invitation to. Only one year since a questionable time-out related call caused Coach Lane Kiffin to lose his cool. Only one year since the Trojans lost again, at home, in front of a national audience.

Do you feel the tension?

The combination of painful history and current potential makes Saturday's matchup both very interesting and very important. The Cardinal lost an essential piece of its winning formula in Andrew Luck, along with star tight end Coby Fleener and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. However, it still has senior running back Stepfan Taylor chasing his third consecutive 1,000 yard season and its offensive line will give USC's defense its first real challenge.

Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov returned in last week's victory over Duke. But, the Cardinal are currently allowing the highest completion rate of any in the country, a stat that could be its achilles heel against the dynamic trio of Barkley, Woods, and Lee.

If everything goes as planned, USC will be challenged and this game will reveal much about both teams, but in the end, the Trojan's three year losing streak will come to a close come Saturday.

Matt Barkley (and the majority of the current USC football team) has never beat the Stanford Cardinal. For a senior, Heisman-contending quarterback who was been victorious over every other PAC-12 team in his tenure, that statistic sounds awfully significant.

Of course, Barkley kept with the script, stating in practice this week that, “It’s the next game. We’re going up north for an away game. Nothing special about it.”

While you have to admire his focus, it's hard to believe that the Trojans, especially the seniors, don't have a little something extra motivating them for Saturday. Redemption is sixty minutes away for a team that has a lot to fight for. I'm sure Curtis McNeal wants it. I'm sure Matt Barkley wants it. I'm sure the unified Trojan Nation is ready to be back on top. Winning the opening game of the conference season may only be step one, but a win in a game like this would mean a lot for this fairytale season.

The 21st-ranked Stanford Cardinal take on the 2nd-ranked University of Southern California Trojans in Palo Alto on Saturday at 4:30 PT on FOX.