Last week's game, which was supposed to be Stanford's first "real" test of the season, turned out to be little more than a running back expo. But this week promises to be more challenging. The Cardinal are facing the toughest quarterback-wide receiver duo they will likely see this season and they are doing it on the road -- where they haven't been as crisp. Ironically, the Cardinal allow fewer yards on average and gain more yards on average on the road than at home, but the players will tell you that they haven't played their best football away from Palo Alto (competition probably has something to do with it as well). This will also be the fastest and most athletic team Stanford has seen to date. The Cardinal have played good athletes, but not athletic teams. This game has upset potential written all over it.
Prediction: Stanford 31, USC 27
Why they'll win: Stanford's coaching staff has given us no reason to think otherwise. They have been fantastic at in-game adjustments all year, so regardless of what USC throws at them, they have proven to be savvy enough to make the necessary changes on the fly. Stanford's tight ends are the best mismatch in college football and I'd expect them to play a significant role in the outcome of this game. Each week the Cardinal coaches come up with creative ways to get them the ball and this week should be no different.
In the spotlight: Safety Devon Carrington has to do a better job tackling. This isn't anything shocking — he knows it. Speaking with Carrington earlier in the week, he said he understands that it's the biggest flaw in his game and that he's taking steps to improve his technique. He's a very gifted athlete and has big-time ball instincts. Nine out of 10 times, the sophomore is going to sniff out the play and put himself in the right position to make something happen. He just has to finish. With safety Delano Howell likely out for the second consecutive game, the pressure is on Carrington to produce like a veteran.
Out on a limb: Either Chris Owusu or Griff Whalen will have a 100-yard game. USC also has some pretty smart guys with headsets, and taking the tight ends out of the game -- or at least trying to -- will probably be their top defensive priority. USC has an athletic enough defensive line that they probably won't need to send many run blitzes -- rather relying on the system to make the stops so they can focus on the tight ends in coverage. That will leave either Owusu or Whalen with a one-on-one matchup. If Andrew Luck can get them the ball -- big games could be on the horizon for them. As always, this is just me going out on a limb ...