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Previewing Stanford vs USC

The Cardinal are faced with their first real challenge of the year

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fans always get their money's worth for a Stanford vs USC game. The matchup tends to be extremely competitive and close, and you never know who might win. This year is no different.

Both teams enter Saturday 1-0, and both teams have plenty of questions ahead of the game. Some include:

How will USC stop the Cardinal rushing attack?

How will Keller Chryst answer a legitimate defense?

When the Trojans take the field, all eyes will be on Sam Darnold, but David Shaw and the Stanford defense should be focused on Ronald Jones II. He's gained 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and absolutely tore up the Western Michigan defense; without him, the Trojans may have lost last Saturday.

Since 2007, the winning team has rushed for more yards 8 out of 10 times. This year's fate will probably be decided by that same stat. In order to stop "Rojo" and company, the insider linebackers need to step up.

Oh yeah, the Trojans also have a guy named Sam Darnold. He's just a Heisman favorite...

Last week, Darnold showed that he's not superhuman after having his first bad (more like decent) game ever. He threw two interceptions and couldn't find the end zone passing, but despite a down game, he's still a potential first pick, and the Cardinal secondary needs to be at the top of their game.

I'm going to boldly predict the Stanford secondary to slow down Sam Darnold. With new receivers, the Trojan passing game didn't flow like it did last year, and the Stanford secondary is elite, so Darnold might struggle to find an open receiver. Hence, this game will be won in the trenches.

Bryce Love averaged over 13 yards per carry against Rice, and Cameron Scarlett impressed as well, but it's Rice. They might have the worst defense in the country, so who knows if the Cardinal rushing attack is as dominant as they look.

My guess: Stanford won't have trouble running the ball. Last year, Stanford dominated the line of scrimmage, and returning almost every starter, the line will create plenty of space for Bryce Love. Plus, USC lost their two best defensive lineman, and it didn't seem like they had replacement answers after WMU ran for 263 yards.

So to answer my first question, USC can't stop Stanford rush attack. Yes, USC has a future NFL star in Cameron Smith, but there's only so much one player can do.

Now, moving on to question two. Keller Chryst will be the biggest x factor in this game. He's undefeated as a starter, but he's also never faced a top 25 team. USC will be by far his biggest test yet.

Some guys perform better in big games. Some guys choke under pressure. With Keller Chryst, we'll find out Saturday. However, Stanford doesn't need Keller Chryst to have a career game. The run game can lead the Cardinal to victory, so Chryst just needs to avoid turnovers and big mistakes.

Like I said earlier, this game will probably be decided in the trenches. Both teams need their inside linebackers to step up and stop the run to win, but I'm more confident in the experienced Cardinal group, so I'm picking Stanford to win 31-24.

Yes, it's a home game for the Trojans, but that has never bothered David Shaw's team in the past.

The game will be aired 5:30 PT on Fox.