Trojans prepare for stout Stanford defensive front
With ESPN’s College GameDay heading back to USC this Saturday for the Trojans’ showdown with the No. 4-ranked Stanford Cardinal, there is plenty of hype surrounding the team that has won three consecutive games, two of them coming on the road.
The Trojans are finally knocking on the door of the top 25 once again, having received 10 votes in last week’s Associated Press poll, and should they be able to spoil Stanford’s national championship aspirations with a win on Saturday, they would most likely be put back into national relevance.
Players and coaches alike feel that having College GameDay on campus will instill more enthusiasm among the Trojan faithful.
“We want people to get excited again about USC football,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler said. “We feel we are on the right track.”
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron also discussed the benefits of having the show on campus before the game.
“I think you can feel the electricity in the air,” Orgeron said. “It will be great for the fans, great for the energy around the stadium, great for recruiting and great for the Trojan Family.”
With all the hype surrounding this game, Orgeron said he expected a great turnout from USC fans.
“It’s important to our players,” Orgeron said. “We’ll play well if there’s one person in the stadium. That’s our mindset. But we work together with the crowd and the band, so it’s a home-field advantage that’s very important to us.”
A Battle in the Trenches
With this game featuring two of the nation’s best defensive front sevens, this game is sure to be one that is won up front.
“We need to really improve on the line of scrimmage,” Orgeron said. “It will be a line of scrimmage game.”
The Cardinal are coming off a game in which they not only dominated up front against Oregon, but also the time of possession, controlling the ball for a little over 42 minutes.
The majority of their success can be attributed to their ability to hand the ball off to running back Tyler Gaffney, who took an outstanding 45 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks.
“It catches our attention,” Orgeron said of Stanford’s performance against Oregon. “We watched that film, and they’re very good on the defensive front and they’re very well-coached. Our guys respect Stanford, but we also respect what we’re doing and have confidence in what we can do.”
If the Trojans are going to have success against a ground-and-pound Stanford team, they are going to have to contain Gaffney and the power of its offensive line.
“It’s all about us and not about them,” Orgeron said. “We expect a very good Stanford team to show up, and we expect to be very good also.”
The Running Back Show
Redshirt sophomore tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen, freshman tailback Ty Isaac and redshirt sophomore fullback Soma Vainuku got the majority of the carries in practice on Tuesday.
Vainuku received carries at tailback in the event that neither senior Silas Redd nor redshirt sophomore Tre Madden are able to play on Saturday.
Allen excelled in the leading tailback role against Cal after Redd went down. He had another career day, taking just six carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while also adding a receiving touchdown.
Issac did his fair share of work as well, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
The USC running game will face its greatest test of the season Saturday against the Stanford front seven, which is part of a defense that ranks nationally in the top 20 in nearly all defensive categories.
Redd and redshirt junior tight end Randall Telfer are both listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.
Telfer did practice on Tuesday, and sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams had pads on but did not participate in contact drills.
Williams and redshirt junior tight end Xavier Grimble are listed as probable for Saturday’s game.
Junior wide receiver Marqise Lee also said on Tuesday that he is back to 100 percent and could have fully participated in the last two weeks. Lee said the coaches wanted to take precautions with his left knee, which was originally injured against Arizona State.
Follow Darian on Twitter @dariannourian24