After Saturday night, I finally concluded that Stanford is no longer Stanford. In the recent decade, Stanford won with a bruising offensive line and a punishing defense, but that wasn't the case against USC. Simply put, the Trojans beat Stanford at their own game, and the Cardinal had no answer.
Stanford has always been a predictable team on offense, and that was fine, but it only worked with a dominant offensive line. Needless to say, Stanford's line couldn't control the line of scrimmage, and as a result, the offense struggled.
The Cardinal deploy a run first offense, yet they couldn't establish their running game against USC. Yes, they averaged 6.5 yards per carry, but take away Love's seventy five yard touchdown, and Stanford didn't even get over one hundred yards rushing.
Although the line plays some part in the rushing woes, I think most of the blame lies on David Shaw. As head coach, he should realize that the line can't dominate like they used too and the offense needs to be less predictable.
Here was the game plan:
1st down: Run
2nd down: Run
3rd down: Pass
When the offense lined up in their power package, I'm pretty sure USC sent eight guys, and Love ran straight into a wall. Meanwhile, when Stanford did rarely pass, they lined up with an empty backfield. David's Shaw play calling couldn't be more obvious.
Last year, Stanford used play action passes, screens, and misdirections, but against USC, there was no creativity. Luckily, this is an easy problem to fix, and with plenty of stars, Stanford should bounce back on offense, but it might be harder to find a solution on defense.
Whatever happened to #partyinthebackfield? Yesterday, it seemed like our defensive lineman counted to five Mississippi before rushing the quarterback as Sam Darnold felt almost no pressure.
Then, there's the fact USC ran for 307 yards...
I'm not even going to look up if that's the most rushing yards allowed in the Harbaugh-Shaw era because frankly I don't want to confirm my beliefs. Although Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr will be playing on Sundays in the near future, 307 yards is just unacceptable.
The Stanford rush defense used to be legendary, but now, the secondary is supposed to lead the way. That wasn't the case Saturday. Darnold threw for 316 yards, and USC receivers made corners look silly. However, I wouldn't point fingers at the secondary. Sam Darnold held the ball forever, and you can only guard someone for so long.
Ultimately, Stanford shouldn't be too ashamed with this loss. USC was not the same team that showed up against Western Michigan, and the Trojans have a legit shot at the CFB Playoff.
As for Stanford's future, I was all aboard the Stanford bandwagon last week after seeing them crush Rice, but now, I'm less optimistic. Stanford isn't as great as I thought; Rice is just really, really bad. Still, Stanford has a shot at winning the North, but it will be a challenge.