We polled the Rule of Tree staff for their opinions on what’s going to happen in Saturday night’s showdown in Los Angeles.
Stanford 34, USC 31USC's run defense was gashed by Western Michigan one week ago. Sure, Cameron Smith sat out the first half, but they weren't the stoutest after the break either. That bodes well for a Shaw offense. Darnold, Jones and co. will put up points, but Stanford wins in a game that has no problems eclipsing the 55 O/U.
Expect big plays from Darnold but also turnovers thanks to Stanford's talented secondary; Stanford ultimately winning due to more disciplined play with a diverse playbook utilizing Love/Scarlett in the running game, JJ/Irwin for the long threat, and the tight ends for intermediate threat.
The Meeks/ Holder connection will lead the best secondary that USC will face all season. Taking into account that USC is a notoriously slow starter, and remembering that Stanford won by 3 scores last season, I expect Darnold to stumble in his first real test under the bright lights. Look for the O-LIne to establish an early presence against the middle of SC's defense, taking advantage of the weakness WMU uncovered in week 1. Darnold throws two picks, Stanford rolls to a 42-27 final.
Hemā Heimuli Jr.
Stanford: Peter Kalambayi with 2 sacks, Meeks and Reid sharing 3 picks total, Love rushes for 200 yards.
USC: Darnold has 200 yards passing, and Ronald Jones scores 3 TDs.
Cardinal win, 31-24
I might get crucified but I've never been a fan of the 2017 Heisman winner Sam Darnold. The USC Trojans are living off of a Rose Bowl that was given, not earned. I don't think they are better than 9-3 team and Stanford is underrated, especially in the defensive backfield. Stanford could put Ryan Burns back out there and make it interesting. Stanford 35 USC 24.
The combo of Scarlett and Love will prove to be too much for the struggling USC run defense and will lead the Stanford offense to a high scoring day. While Ronald Jones will likely have a big day as well, Stanford's stout secondary will be enough to keep Darnold from establishing a consistent passing threat.
Prediction: Stanford 35 USC 27
Seems like every Rule of Tree writer is picking Stanford, but that's because they're right; Stanford is simply a better all-around team. They don't depend on one player, and matchup extremely well with the Trojans. This game won't be a blowout and should be close, but ultimately, Stanford wins 31-24.