Stanford, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Top 25 action takes place in the Pac-12 this weekend, as the 13th-ranked Stanford Cardinal play host to the 14th- ranked USC Trojans.
David Shaw's Cardinal are the two-time defending conference champions and opened their season last week with a dominant 45-0 whipping of UC Davis. With the win, Stanford extended the nation's longest current home winning streak to 17 and recorded its first season-opening shutout victory since 1972.
Steve Sarkisian's debut at USC was equally impressive, as the Trojans, under new leadership, raced past the Fresno State Bulldogs in last week's season- opener, posting a 52-13 rout.
Stanford is USC's oldest rival, with this series dating back to 1905. USC holds a 59-29-3 series advantage, but the Cardinal have gotten the upperhand of late, winning four of the last five meetings and five of the last seven overall. Last season, it was the Trojans that came out on top with a late field goal to earn a 20-17 victory over then No. 5 Stanford at the Coliseum.
Quarterback Cody Kessler got his junior season off on the right foot, as he completed 25-of-37 passes, for 394 yards and four touchdowns, while adding a fifth score on the ground against Fresno State.
Two of those TD passes were to standout receiver Nelson Agholor, who had five receptions on the day. Freshman wideout Juju Smith had quite the debut as well, catching four balls, for 123 yards in the win.
Kessler did have a minor procedure done on his toes this week, but isn't supposed to miss any time.
"We expect him to be full go (Wednesday) and ready to go for the game," said Sarkisian. "It obviously didn't affect his play on Saturday."
The Trojans also dominated in the ground game against the Bulldogs, rumbling for 277 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. Junior tailback Javorius Allen handled the brunt of the workload, amassing 133 yards and one TD on 22 carries.
The USC defense was extremely sharp as well against Fresno State, limiting the Bulldogs to a mere 317 yards of total offense, including a meager 160 through the air. The Trojans dominated the airways, recording four interceptions in the win.
Senior linebacker Hayes Pullard led the team with eight total tackles. All- American candidate Leonard Williams had a strong game as well. The 6-5, 300- pound junior end posted seven tackles and had one of the four INTs.
Stanford did just about everything right in the rout of the Aggies last week. The Cardinal finished with 461 yards of total offense and was efficient throughout. Starting quarterback Kevin Hogan was needed for the whole game, but still completed 12-of-16 passes, for 204 yards and three TDs in the win.
All-American candidate Ty Montgomery had a strong outing as well. He finished the game with 159 all-purpose yards, including five receptions, for 77 yards and a score. Freshman wideout Chris McCaffrey, son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, got off to a great start as well, finishing with 122 all-purpose yards. His one reception was a 52-yard TD strike.
The Aggies were simply no match for Stanford's defense. The Cardinal allowed only six first downs in the game, while holding UC Davis to a mere 115 yards of total offense. The Aggies managed just 61 yards rushing and 54 yards passing. Overall, Stanford finished with eight TFL, two INTs and four sacks.
Senior linebacker A.J. Tarpley led the unit with six total tackles. Senior defensive tackle David Parry was next in line with four tackles and had one of the sacks.
The conference race gets off and running right out of the gate. This is a marquee matchup, but Shaw warns not to put too much stock in early rankings.
The games start and the games matter," said Shaw. "Once you start your conference play, that's when the season starts and we get into it and it's tough and it's physical. And every team is going to have ups and downs. And mark it down, the team that wins our conference might not be undefeated. The team that win s a National Championship might not be undefeated.
"But conferences are stacked. There's a lot of great football being played all over the country. It's hard to gauge, especially after nobody's played a game, how good anybody is. It's hard to gauge after one game, two, games, I think seven, eight games down the road you start to have an idea who the best teams are in the nation because everybody is going to grow. I hope for our team that we're better four weeks from now than we are today."