Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for Week 2 against Stanford.
I still don’t know if I’m a believer in this team after the San José State game, which was a lot closer than the final score suggests. There were so many missed opportunities on offense, and the defense looked strong, but we weren’t exactly facing Trevor Lawrence. It’s been a long time since USC has beat an opponent decisively and looked good, but Saturday could be the day. I definitely think USC will win this one, and it shouldn’t be all that close.
Inexperienced sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee is starting for Stanford against a fierce USC pass rush. Stanford’s defense got better as their Week 1 game went on, but the Trojans only displayed a hint of their offensive potential against San José State. Look for the Trojans to beat the 17-point spread; if it’s close, it will be yet another example of USC playing down to its opponents.
— Amanda Sturges
As far as running back committees go, last week’s rushing performance by USC was the most committee-est of committees. The pinnacle of committee-ing, if you will. If head coach Clay Helton’s plan was to split the touches and production as evenly as possible, he couldn’t have executed it better. Senior transfer Keaontay Ingram and sixth-year man Vavae Malepeai carried the ball 15 and 14 times for 86 and 65 yards, respectively. They combined to average 5.2 yards per carry, an efficient run game that buoyed an inconsistent passing attack.
Given last week’s success on the ground, expect the Trojans to continue utilizing a committee approach for their backs. Ingram gets the nod from me as the yards leader –– he showed a better ability to get north-south at the end of his runs –– but I expect the output between him and Malepeai to be close. The number to watch for is the yards per carry: if USC averages a healthy number, a victory should be in the books.
— Eddie Sun
Criticize USC’s Week 1 offensive performance all you want (trust me, I also want), but the one thing the Trojans did well was take care of the ball. Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis didn’t force too many passes, and the ones he did force didn’t seem particularly interceptable. Slovis threw no picks, and the Trojans had no turnovers apart from a fumble by redshirt senior tight end Erik Krommenhoek. If you’re irrationally worried about Krommenhoek’s ball security due to the only fumble of his collegiate career, fine, I guess, but he only had two receptions in the game, and if his usage is similar in Week 2, it won’t sink USC in the turnover department.
On the other side of the ball, USC snagged a pair of interceptions against SJSU and is only getting better in the secondary with the return of redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao. (The Trojans even forced a fumble in that game, though they didn’t recover it.) Stanford sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee didn’t throw any picks in Week 1, but still — USC is quite a bit better than Kansas State and should cause plenty more discomfort. Call me arrogant, but I’d bet the farm (pun intended) on the Trojans winning the turnover battle Saturday. This one is a slam dunk.
— Nathan Ackerman
Redshirt junior Raymond Scott posted an impressive four solo tackles for the Trojans last Saturday and was a key player in limiting San José State to 68 yards rushing. After playing linebacker and in the secondary last season, Scott is solely working as a linebacker now. Last week was a preview of what he can do now with his focus on one position.
With their inexperience at quarterback, the Cardinal will likely try to establish a ground game early. But, Stanford’s offensive line struggled in its season opener to create lanes for the running backs. This creates a perfect opportunity for Scott to lead the Trojan defense in preventing Stanford from making big gains and forcing Tanner McKee to throw the ball.
— Ava Brand
Stanford is coming off a lopsided opening week loss to Kansas State and should continue to struggle against a USC defense that looked exceptional against San Jose State. If USC’s offense can finish off drives more efficiently than last week, this could be another blowout victory.
The No. 14-ranked Trojans will rise up the rankings should they win on Saturday. No. 12 Oregon is playing No. 3 Ohio State. After a shaky opening week for the Ducks it’s unlikely they beat Ohio State, and a loss will have them drop in the rankings.
Another marquee matchup is between Iowa State and Iowa, ranked No. 9 and No. 10, respectively. The loser of this game will drop several spots in the rankings. As long as the Trojans take care of business, they should find themselves as the No. 12 team in the nation by the time the next AP Top 25 poll is released.
— L.J. Dow