USC coach Lincoln Riley makes his Pac-12 debut as the No. 10 Trojans travel to Stanford on Saturday. The game pits one of the conference’s newest coaches against one of its oldest coaches, Cardinal’s David Shaw.
The Trojans crushed Rice 66-14 in Riley’s opener with eight different receivers posting at least 20 yards. Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison led the way with a pair of touchdowns in his debut for the Trojans, both of which came from Oklahoma transfer quarterback Caleb Williams.
Stanford cruised to a 41-10 victory over Colgate thanks to 118 rushing yards and two scores from running back EJ Smith. Quarterback Tanner McKee added 308 passing yards and two points in the blowout victory. However, Stanford will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 3-9 season in 2021 that featured just two conference wins.
The Cardinal beat USC 42-28 in their last meeting behind a pair of McKee touchdown passes. Stanford have won four of the last five meetings between these two home programs.
USC vs. Stanford: Need to Know
Wave of transfers: The Trojans went 4-8 last season, but the roster couldn’t be more different after Riley’s first offseason. USC introduced the No. 1 transfer class, with an All-American receiver, a star freshman quarterback and nearly a dozen defensemen. The top passer, three of the top four runners, three of the top four receivers and the top two tacklers against Rice weren’t on the list last season. As USC’s first game against a Power Five opponent approaches, the reaction of these new faces will speak volumes.
Star pedigree: Junior running back EJ Smith was terrific for Stanford in his opener, throwing for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including an 87-yard scamper. If his name sounds familiar to you, he should. Smith is the son of Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time rushing yards leader. Young Smith has been used sparingly as a redshirt freshman, but he looks set to take on a starring role. Stanford is just 12-19 in the past four seasons since Bryce Love left for the NFL. Smith emerging as a go-to player would be a major development for the program.
Quarterback Battle: USC starter Caleb Williams ranked second quarterback and among the top 10 players in the 2021 recruiting class. He earned numerous freshman honors with the Sooners after passing for 1,912 yards, ran for 442 yards and posted 27 total touchdowns with just a few clicks. However, don’t look past Tanner McKee. The junior was a borderline five-star as a rookie before leaving on a two-year assignment and turned heads after showing real flashes last season. In three games against top 15 opponents in 2021, McKee has completed 67% of passes for 636 passing yards and six touchdowns.
How to watch USC vs. Stanford live
Date: Saturday September 10 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Stanford Stadium — Stanford, California
TV: ABC | Direct: fuboTV (Try for free)
USC vs. Stanford Prediction, Picks
Expectations are off the charts for Riley’s program, and for good reason. The Trojans are the last unblemished Pac-12 team remaining in the preseason AP Top 25 and have one of the few coaches in the sport to reach the playoffs multiple times. Stanford should be improved after a miserable 2021, but it’s hard to imagine USC missing an opportunity to make its first statement on the national stage. Prediction: USC (-9)
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