(Sports Network) -
GAME NOTES: The 16th-ranked Stanford Cardinal will attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season, when they welcome the USC Trojans to Stanford Stadium for a Pac-10 matchup this weekend.
Jim Harbaugh's Cardinal opened the 2010 campaign with four straight impressive victories, but failed to establish themselves as the team to beat in the conference with last weekend's 52-31 loss at Oregon.
The Trojans know a thing or two about conference supremacy, but this year's squad takes on a much different look. Lane Kiffin's first season at the helm began with four straight victories, but the team was bounced out of the top-25 with last week's 32-31 heart-breaking loss against Washington.
Missed opportunities were a key factor in the loss according to Kiffin.
"Unfortunately for us, we had so many opportunities to finish the game out. If you're going to be a championship team, you have to finish people off when you have the ball. You can't go and kick field goals."
Stanford is USC's oldest rival with the series dating back to 1905. The Trojans hold a 59-26-3 advantage all-time. Stanford however, has won two of the last three meetings, including a 55-21 drubbing of the Trojans last year in the Coliseum.
For the second straight season, Washington PK Erik Folk kicked a last-second field goal to do in the Trojans. It spoiled a terrific performance by tailback Allen Bradford, who rumbled for 223 yards last week.
A strong ground attack has been the strength of USC's offense this season with the team netting 234.4 yards per game on 6.4 yards per carry. Bradford leads the team with an even 500 yards, averaging an eye-popping 9.8 yards per carry.
Balance comes from QB Matt Barkley, who has completed 65.9 percent of his throws, for 1,127 yards and 12 TDs. Wide receiver Ronald Johnson has clearly been the go-to-guy downfield, pacing the team in receptions (26), receiving yards (358) and TD catches (five).
While the USC offense has been productive, the same cannot be said of the defense. The Trojans are yielding a generous 418.8 yards per game, and have been particularly vulnerable to the pass (288.0 ypg).
Sophomore safety T.J. McDonald has been extremely busy, recording a team-high 42 tackles, with one sack and two INTs. Up front, DE Wes Horton (15 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks) and DT Jurrell Casey (30 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2.0 sacks) have been active. Malcolm Smith (35 tackles) and Devon Kennard (31 tackles, one sack) highlight the play amongst the LBs.
Stanford has put up big numbers in 2010 thanks to a balanced offense that is generating 44.6 ppg on 469.6 yards of total offense. The ground attack is churning out 214.0 ypg, while the aerial assault tacks on another 255.6.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is regarded as one of the nation's top gunslingers. He passed for 341 yards at Oregon this past weekend, but it wasn't enough in the loss to the Ducks. On the season, Luck has completed 62.8 percent of his passes, for 1,253 yards with 13 TDs. He has definitely spread the ball around with eight different players hauling in TD receptions. Doug Baldwin leads the way with 15 receptions, for 255 yards and three TDs.
Tailback Stepfan Taylor has handled the lion's share of the carries, averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per tote and 75.6 yards per game.
The Stanford defense has had its moments, but last weekend in Eugene wasn't one of them. The Cardinal allowed the hometown Ducks to roll up 626 yards, an obvious key to the 21-point setback. That game has inflated the stats a bit for the Cardinal, who are now allowing 21.4 ppg, on 330.0 yards of total offense.
Junior strong safety Delano Howell paces the defensive unit with 27 tackles. Linebacker Chase Thomas has shown big play ability as well, with 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks one INT and two fumble recoveries.
USC's postseason destination has already been determined by NCAA sanctions, but that doesn't mean the team can't play the role of spoiler. Still, this is a different Stanford team and the Cardinal know there is simply no more room for error.