LOS ANGELES -- These were programs supposedly headed in opposite directions. Just two weeks ago, Stanford was held out of the end zone in a bizarre -- even more so now -- loss to Northwestern, while USC turned in 50-plus point performances in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 2005. But, as has often been the case recently in this series, that didn't matter as the Cardinal quieted the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum crowd with a 41-31 win against No. 6 USC.
What the win means for Stanford: After leaving the Pac-12 title discussion following their loss to Northwestern, the Cardinal are back in the fold. And how it happened is almost as perplexing. Following a career-high 341 yards passing last week against Central Florida, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, making it abundantly clear the Cardinal don’t need to be a power-run goliath to be effective offensively. If Stanford can go into the Coliseum and beat USC, there are few games it won't have a chance to win.
What the loss means for USC: The Trojans weren't shy about embracing expectations for a trip to the College Football Playoff, and while the loss doesn’t completely end those dreams, it definitely removes all room for error. For the most part, the offense did its part (427 total yards), but the defense couldn’t come up with key stops at the end of either half.
The game turned when: It looked as if USC might run away with it following a touchdown to go up 21-10 with 9:24 left in the second quarter, but the Trojans couldn't find any sort of rhythm from that point forward. USC had little trouble running the ball in the first half (115 yards on 22 carries) but rushed just six times in the second half.
Player of the game: Hogan. The stats were good, but it was his efficiency and decision-making that stood out. He executed a perfect Stanford game plan and looked like the quarterback who led the Cardinal to Pac-12 titles in 2012 and 2013.