Check out the Pac-12 Championship: USC vs. Stanford fearless prediction and game preview.
USC (9-3) vs. Stanford (10-2) Game Preview
Broadcast, TV, Game Time
Date: Friday, December 1st
Game Time: 8:00 pm ET
Venue: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
It’s a whole different world now for both teams.
Stanford is far better now than it was in the second week of the season, and USC doesn’t have the swagger it had when it was the sixth-ranked team in the country. But even with their strange and tough journeys, they’re here.
It was a rough year for the Pac-12 South – again.
At least the Arizona teams were healthier than they were in 2016, but that was offset by a weaker Colorado, a mediocre Utah, and a strange UCLA team. USC just ran through it all like tissue paper.
But the stunning loss at Washington State, combined with the 49-14 loss at Notre Dame, meant an end to any and all College Football Playoff dreams – no, there just isn’t a path no matter what happens in Santa Clara.
But that doesn’t mean this can’t be a successful season. Winning the Pac-12 Championship matters, because USC has never won one.
The last Pac-anything title? 2008 as the Pac-10 champ. It played Stanford in the 2015 Pac-12 Championship, losing 41-22.
But USC shouldn’t feel too bad. The South has never won a Pac-12 Championship going 0-6, losing by an average score of 41-19.
This is the year the Trojans have to change all of that, and if they do, they’re likely off to the Fiesta Bowl to face – likely – either Penn State or the Big Ten Championship loser.
Or, that will be Stanford in Glendale.
This would be a sweet finish to a rocky season.
The Cardinal just whacked the Notre Dame team that blew out the Trojans, and now on a nice run of eight wins in nine games, nothing else matters but coming up with their fourth Pac-12 Championship in six seasons.
And maybe, along the way, Bryce Love can cement himself as the No. 2 guy in the Heisman race.
Or Sam Darnold can look more and more like he’s ready to be a Cleveland Brown.
It’s the calm-before-the-storm game on Friday night. It might not be a playoff quarterfinal, but it should be terrific.
One Reason Why USC Will Win
And here comes the pass rush.
The Trojans didn’t shut down Bryce Love the first go-round, and the defensive front didn’t even have to do too much. But on the year, this has been a dominant force when it comes getting into the backfield, coming up with 41 sacks on the year – only Miami has more.
The Stanford offensive line might be strong, and it might not give up a slew of sacks, but this isn’t a Cardinal passing game that operates all that well when it’s rushed.
Love has to be healthy and rumbling well, QB KJ Costello has to throw the ball up to his big targets, and the defense has to do the rest.
And USC has to stop that by hanging out behind the line.
Keller Chryst actually threw well the first time around, but Darnold was better, hitting 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards and four scores.
USC has better weapons, and a nastier defense, but …
One Reason Why Stanford Will Win
Stanford has seemingly found its groove.
It took the year to get here, but Costello has started to do enough to balance out the offense with more timely plays for the passing game. The O revolves around Love, but Costello has thrown only two picks on the year with nine touchdown passes, pitching four against Notre Dame.
But it’s not too hard to hang it up with you have a slew of NBA small forwards at receiver.
Leading target JJ Arcega-Whiteside is 6-3, 222 pounds. Trenton Irwin is 6-2, 205, and tight ends Dalton Schultz and Kaden Smith each go around 6-6. This group beats up secondaries. You know what’s coming, and they just go and get the ball anyway.
But this is Love’s moment.
Already with 1,848 yards and 16 scores despite playing most of the second half of the year on a bum ankle, he’s the difference between Stanford being here, and Washington getting a shot at a second straight conference title.
He ran for 160 yards against the Trojans the first time around, but he wasn’t used enough. The injury is the problem now, but he needs the ball at least 20 times – more like 25 – and he has to come through with the home runs to offset everything USC will do.
Heisman voters are looking for options. It’s up to Love to give them one.
What’s Going To Happen
It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but USC will fight its way to a Pac-12 title with RB Ronald Jones doing his part to match what Love does, and with Darnold being Darnold.
USC has too much offense, is too balanced, and has too much of a pass rush – it’ll find several ways to win.
Love will be great, and it’s Stanford – it knows how to bully teams in games like this – but it’s USC’s time to finally be the star of the Pac-12 again.
Pac-12 Championship: USC vs. Stanford Prediction
USC 27, Stanford 21
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