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Rule of Tree Staff Predictions: USC Trojans at Stanford Cardinal

It’s a Pac-12 Championship Game Rematch! Here’s how the Rule of Tree Staff Sees It!

Pac 12 Championship - Stanford v USC Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Matt Vassar: Look, I get it. USC beat us twice last season. But their first win was in the cozy confines of the Coliseum. And once the game got moved to a neutral field, USC could only eke out a very narrow victory—with a bit of help from the Pac-12 refs. This time around, not only will USC have to do it on the road at Stanford Stadium, but they’ll also have to do it while breaking in a new QB. Forgive me for being skeptical. Stanford 30, USC 27.

Charlie Foy: Stanford can’t mess around this week. Although ranked 17th in the nation, USC is highly underrated this year. Their new quarterback, JT Daniels, is the real deal and will pick apart the Stanford secondary with his arsenal of weapons. On defense, the Trojans boast two threatening linebackers, Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin. Overall, I think these teams are evenly matched, and the game will ultimately be won by coaching. I’m picking David Shaw over Clay Helton. Stanford 38, USC 34.

Kyle Fierro: This will be a tough one. On one hand, USC just gave up over 300 rushing yards to a school that is not known for being good at football. They are starting a quarterback who by all accounts should be starting his senior year of high school right now. Stanford pivoted beautifully and beat the spread last week despite their best player having his worst career game. On the other hand, I just have the willies this week. I don’t expect Love to fully bounce back from that performance especially because USC brings NFL talent to its defensive line. I don’t expect JJ Arcega-Whiteside to repeat his Herculean effort against more athletic and sizable DBs. I was not impressed with our offensive line last week and Stanford is still missing its starting center. I also would not be surprised to see our emerging defensive line take a step back when facing a more formidable opponent. I anticipate a competitive, high scoring game, with many USC breakaway TDs and a more balanced Stanford offense. I’m just not feeling this one. USC 45, Stanford 38.

nerdnation23: This game has the makings of another classic. The question is which week 1 game was more of a fluke. While USC has the better athletes and the best LB, Stanford is the better team and I think USC has a better chance at giving up 300 rushing yards than Love getting shut down. Stanford wills its way to a fun but tough win. Stanford 31, USC 28.

David Ta: USC is a blue blood that gets blue-chip talent. Stanford happens to be well-coached enough to match up with USC. This will be a close one. USC will have to pick their poison between letting Bryce Love or the stud Stanford receivers run wild. Our defense, however, managed to bottle up SDSU in the second half. They will also be able to bottle up USC on sheer talent alone. This could be high scoring. I think the key to Stanford winning, though, is a young JT Daniels making a few mistakes that give the elite Stanford offense enough chances to overwhelm USC. Stanford 45, USC 42.

Marlaina Calhoun: As I write this, I’m still torn on who will win his game. There are so many stats out there between these two teams that trend in either direction. On one hand, K.J. Costello, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and the rest of the receiving corps came out right on time to help overcome the blitzing wall that SDSU put up against Bryce Love. But on the other hand, USC seems to have weapons on offense as well, including a not-so-shaken freshman quarterback in JT Daniels and senior back, Aca’Cedric Ware. In this kind of matchup, no points are taken for granted and I can see it coming down to a field goal—and USC’s Chase McGrath went 5/5 last week. It’s a very close call but I’m going to give Stanford the edge, but I’m counting on a few things: Daniels making some sort of freshman-like costly turnover and Bryce Love showing the Heisman voters that he’s not here for second place again. Coach Shaw finds a way to get Love the ball and go to work. Stanford’s defense digs deep again and shakes up Daniels. Stanford 27, USC 24.

Colton Molesky: The Cardinal did something they have failed to do the past two seasons: find success when their running backs have not. The Cardinal should have all the confidence in the world with Costello’s performance, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s dominance and the fact that Bryce Love will not be held back for long. The height advantage the Stanford receivers have over USC’s corners is another wrinkle in their favor. On the defensive side, Bobby Okereke can antagonize J.T. Daniels and Alijah Holder’s return gives the Cardinal plenty of depth on the back end to play with coverages. It will be a high-scoring thriller, and Stanford will prevail. Stanford 45, USC 37.