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Stanford vs. USC: Q&As With Two Trojan Blogs

Matt Barkley has some gaudy statistics, but the Trojans are off to a slow start.
Matt Barkley has some gaudy statistics, but the Trojans are off to a slow start.

I'd like to thank Jim Wyzard of Conquest Chronicles and Jacob Freedman of Neon Tommy for answering a few questions about the Trojans in advance of Saturday's showdown with the Cardinal. I hope you gentlemen have wonderful weekends, except for the roughly four hours beginning at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Rule of Tree: What's your assessment of the Trojans through two weeks? Is USC living up to the hype in the eyes of its fans or are there areas of concern?

Jim Wyzard, Conquest Chronicles: Pretty much what I saw last season. The defense is starting off a little slow as players get comfortable in their roles. Because of some of the losses we have with the front 7, I am a little concerned about getting penetration to disrupt Nunes consistently. I wouldn't say there is a great concern...just a little discomfort as guys settle in. Happens every season. So, if they handle Stanford this week, it will go a long way to answering that question with more clarity.

Jacob Freedman, Neon Tommy: With the hype through the roof this season, a 12-point win over a middling Big East squad in Syracuse is not sitting over well. Matt Barkley threw for six touchdowns, but just 8 of his 23 completions were for over 10 yards and he finished with just 197 yards in the air. The offensive pass protection is at fault, but Trojans fans are looking for more deep balls to Lee and Woods.

The bigger issue is the secondary. Cornerback Torin Harris returned from injury against Syracuse, but was burned for both of the Orange's passing touchdowns. Opposite cornerback Nickell Robey had two interceptions last week, but overall improvement is needed in the back four.

RoT: Stanford fans know to be worried about Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Matt Barkley. How has Silas Redd looked this season and who else might give the Cardinal defense fits on Saturday?

JW: Silas Redd has been a huge addition! With DJ Morgan out due to knee surgery, the tandem of Redd and McNeil is shaping up nicely. I would keep a close eye on USC TEs Xaivier Grimble and Randall Telfer. They have been almost as affective as Lee and Woods. They give Barkley another target that can move the ball down field.

JF: Redd and the entire running game struggled in the opener, but the Penn State transfer used his elite vision to take full advantage of the holes created in the running game last weekend. However, what threw Syracuse's defense off guard and could do the same this weekend was reverses. Lee took one for 23 yards early after Syracuse loaded up their defenders in the middle of the field, while Woods took one 76 yards in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown that gave the Trojans a three-touchdown lead.

RoT: USC has already been bit by the injury bug. Whose absence might be felt the most this week?

JW: Center Khaled Holmes. Cyrus Hobbi can fill Holmes' shoes but not completely. Senior leadership and experience can NEVER be discounted...

JF: Center Kkaled Holmes is listed on the depth chart right now, but it is still up in the air whether he will play. If Holmes is gone, not only do the Trojans lose a senior leader who has played his entire career with Barkley, but also a smart linemen whose past experience playing guard gives him an elite ability to read the defensive line pre-snap.

If Holmes is available, an absence that could cost is the Trojans is that of rocket-legged kicker Andre Heidari. Kiffin doesn't seem to trust backup kicker Craig McMahon, leading to the Trojans going for it on fourth and 12 last week from the Syracuse 25-yard line. Meanwhile, walk-on true freshman kicker Alex Wood took extra points, while McMahon handled kickoffs. One can bet Kiffin does not want to be in a late-game situation where three points or less can decide the game.

RoT: The Cardinal has had USC's number in recent years, but with Andrew Luck gone, many expect the Trojans to cruise into their Nov. 3 meeting with Oregon undefeated. What do you view as the second-toughest game on USC's regular-season schedule and how worried are you, if at all, about Saturday's showdown?

JW: I don't see USC cruising at all. I think they have a tough road to hoe even with the Ducks playing in LA. I think Saturday's game is 2nd toughest for a number of reasons...1) Stanford has had success with USC of late. 2) Even without Andrew Luck Sanford can be tough to beat...especially early in the season with USC working out the kinks.

JF: A road matchup against Utah was looking to be a massive hurdle, but the career-ending injury of Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn is a tragic, but fortunate bounce for the Trojans. UCLA is looking a lot more dangerous right now than two weeks ago. If the Bruins offense can continue to show it has improved by leaps and bounds from last year, then it has all the makings of 2006, where a stunning Bruins upset at the Rose Bowl knocked the Trojans out of the National Championship game.

For this Saturday, I'd put my level of concern at a 6 out of 10. Stanford's offense will need to take another step in order to keep up Barkley and the passing game. For all their struggles initially last week, the Trojans still scored 42 points. If Stanford can make some big plays and see Nunes become more reliable in the pocket, then they'll have a chance once the fourth quarter comes around.

RoT: What's your prediction for the game?

JW: I think USC will win but not by more than 5 points. I don't see them covering...

JF: After a sluggish first half last week, expect the Trojans to come out slinging. I expect Barkley to pass for over 200 yards this week and for the running game to not play as huge of a factor as it did against the Orange. Josh Nunes will need to grow up quickly if the Cardinal want to keep up, but I expect the Trojan offense to put up enough points to keep their undefeated hopes alive. USC 39, Stanford 27.