When No. 4 Stanford heads to USC this week, it will do so with the opportunity to make history.
In the 88-game series dating back to 1922, the Cardinal have never won five straight against the Trojans. A win Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would change that.
For the current roster, that stat might be hard to comprehend. No current Stanford player has ever been a part of a loss to the Trojans.
"They kind of had the upper hand previously, but then the last few years we've managed to pull out some pretty close wins," Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson said. "I think this is a big game for them because they've turned things around (this season) and are trying to turn things around and get the USC moniker back to the old days."
Yes, times have changed.
USC's last win came sandwiched between Stanford's 24-23 upset as a 41-point underdog in 2007 and the "What's Your Deal?" win in 2009.
None of those games carried the importance of Saturday's, which essentially serves as a Rose Bowl quarterfinal game. With just two conference games left -- including one against hopeless California -- a win against the Trojans would all but assure Stanford a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A win there and the Cardinal would book back-to-back trips to Pasadena for the first time since 1970-71.
A few weeks ago, it would have been reasonable to write this off as a sure Stanford win, but USC has righted a seemingly sinking ship under the direction of interim coach Ed Orgeron. The Trojans (7-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) have won three straight and four of five since Lane Kiffin's dismissal following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28.
"I was kind of shocked that they aren't ranked in the Top 25," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I don't know that anyone has played as well as they have in the last month of the season."
Shaw hasn't seen USC make major schematic changes under Orgeron, just "some subtle changes defensively. Some subtle changes offensively."
Even without the stakes, USC would get special attention from Stanford.
"It's something we've always circled in the past as saying this is the game that we want to show America who the team we are, show the Pac-12 who the team we are," guard Kevin Danser said. "SC has always been one of the top-tier teams, not only in California and the Pac-12, but in the nation."