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Pac-12 Championship Game: USC vs Stanford Rule of Tree Staff Predictions

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The Rule of Tree staff shares their predictions for USC vs Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

randalthor: Here's an interesting statistic: USC and Stanford have seven common opponents this season. Stanford bested USC's margin of victory (or defeat) against EVERY ONE of those opponents, and by an AVERAGE of 17 points. USC only played one of those games (Washington) while Sarkisian was head coach. I don't usually set much store by common opponents, but seven is a lot, and that 17 point average difference seems significant. I think both defenses get worn out in this game, but Stanford makes more crucial stops, controls the ball better down the stretch, and takes this one by two scores.

nerdnation23:  It would make sense that in a series of close games, the most important one is a blowout. As much as USC is playing for their new coach, a new running game, etc. I feel like Stanford is just a better team even with their weakened secondary. USC has more injuries than they did in the first game which I think will pay off for Stanford and will win by at least 10. Stanford 42 USC 28.

TonyFernandesSports: Stanford 45, USC 28. The Trojans have improved under newly minted Head Coach Clay Helton, but still are lacking in several key areas. The Trojans came into the season as a favorite to possibly get into the College Playoffs, but have been bitten by issues on and off the field. Stanford has also been hit with a rash of injuries lately, but has adapted to become a stronger team over the last few weeks. I foresee Head Coach David Shaw unleashing "The Kraken" on offense this week, and we will see the ball spread around to several skill position players. USC will try to utilize their run game, but in the end, will fall victim to the "bend but don't break" defensive philosophy.

Matt Vassar: Stanford 31, USC 27. Man, so many interesting matchups in this game. We have Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey squaring off against a stout USC run defense (albeit one that will be forced to play without injured Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Cameron Smith). We have Kyle Murphy, Joshua Garnett, and a Stanford Offensive Line (named as one of six finalists to the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in the country) squaring off against a USC front seven led by Su'a Cravens that ranks 19th in the county for sack percentage. We have JuJu Smith-Schuster (ranked 7th in FBS for receiving yards) against a very young (and very battered) Stanford secondary that will once again be forced to play without team captain Ronnie Harris. And we have Kevin Hogan (ranked 5th in the country in passer efficiency) up against a thin USC secondary that will be without Leon McQuay III. Altogether, I see this adding up to a real thriller of a game with a LOT of passing yards from both teams. Tune in for the fireworks as I see Stanford narrowly edging out USC in a Pac-12 Championship Game for the ages.

To hear Matt preview the Stanford-USC game in greater depth, click below to listen to his most recent episode of Cardinal CounTree: