The Pac-12 opener for the No. 23 Stanford Cardinal and the USC Trojans on Saturday will be a battle of the backups, as neither team will have their starting quarterback on the field. Stanford will be without K.J. Costello after he suffered a head injury in last week’s win over Northwestern, while USC has lost J.T. Daniels for the season after a knee injury in the Trojans’ opening victory over Fresno State.
The Cardinal had Davis Mills come into the contest against the Wildcats and held on for a 17-7 win, while the Trojans turned to Kedon Slovis, who helped the team to a 31-23 victory. USC is looking for some revenge for last season when Stanford dominated in a 17-3 home victory over the Trojans.
The moneyline for this contest has the Stanford Cardinal +135 and the USC Trojans -155. The host Trojans are three-point favorites, while the over/under for the contest has been set at 43.
More Than One Loss
Mills, a junior, was 7-for-10 for 81 yards after taking over for Costello last week but fumbled the ball twice. He’ll face some pressure in this one as USC tries to take advantage of the absence of left tackle Walker Little, who suffered a leg injury in the win last week and will be out several weeks. Freshman Walter Rouse is slated to take Little’s spot, so expect the Trojans to bring heavy pressure from that side of the line.
The Cardinal defense will be looking to repeat last year’s performance in which it held USC to their lowest-scoring performance in 21 years. Stanford didn’t allow a score against Northwestern until midway through the fourth quarter, then sealed the game with a strip-sack by Casey Toohill that was recovered in the end zone with 20 seconds left by Jordan Fox. The Wildcats finished the game with just 210 yards of total offense.
His Team Now
Slovis, an 18-year-old freshman, now has the job of starting quarterback at USC, likely sooner than even he expected in his wildest dreams. Slovis was 6-of-8 for 57 yards and an interception against Fresno State, but coach Clay Helton will certainly not put the onus on the freshman to have to carry the USC offense. Instead, look for the Trojans to revert to Tailback U from way back when, with Vavae Malepeai (23 carries, 134 yards, one TD) and Stephen Carr (six carries, 56 yards, one TD) both getting lots of carries in this one.
Defensively, the Trojans will likely bring a lot of extra defenders after Mills, especially in sure passing downs. USC had three sacks against Fresno State in the opener. Senior linebacker John Houston Jr. led the defensive charge against the Bulldogs, recording 13 tackles, while sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga chipped in with eight stops.
Ground Attack Powers Trojans
USC has the younger backup quarterback, but it also has home-field advantage, the better running game and a bit of revenge on its mind. Stanford will keep things close, but the Trojans are likely to take advantage of the Cardinal’s inexperience at both quarterback and left tackle to pull out the victory. I’m taking USC -3 to pick up the win.