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College Hotline - Stanford football report card: Bye-bye bye, hello USC

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    Not much to report from the bye week. Stanford practiced Monday and Tuesday, went through conditioning drills Wednesday, then broke for a four-day weekend – at least for the players. The coaches were out recruiting.

    Result: Bye

    Grade: N/A

    Comment: As noted in this space last week …

    Harrison Phillips did not suffer ligament damage to his knee but is doubtful for USC, while Bryce Love is recovering (lower leg) and on track to play.

    Coach David Shaw will undoubtedly have updates Tuesday at his weekly press briefing.

    Look for Jordan Watkins to replace Phillips in the starting lineup. Watkins has been a deep reserve/fringe-rotation player until this season – his final season – but now appears to have elevated his play.




    Shaw was asked about Christian McCaffrey’s workload as the primary running back and punt/kick return. His response:

    “Great players need to touch the ball. Last year he had over 400 (touches). But he doesn’t get hit hard a lot. His 400 may not be like 400 for somebody else.”

    Next up: USC.

    The matchup: Highly favorable.

    How to read an early-season duel matching ancient rivals with new quarterbacks – and two dramatically different results for one of the participants?

    Does USC’s 46-point loss to Alabama provide more insight than its 38-point victory over Utah State?

    Answer: Absolutely.

    It’s not merely that Stanford‘s talent level is closer to Alabama’s than to USU’s. It’s also that Stanford’s style of play … its ethos … is much closer to that of the Crimson Tide.

    *** Alabama is strong on the lines of scrimmage – to an unfathomable degree on the defensive side – and so is Stanford.

    The Trojans? They’re underwhelming on the defensive line and not nearly as good as touted up front offensively.

    (It’s remarkable that USC, with its tradition and recruiting base, could get caught with so few top-tier defensive linemen.)

    Also, the Tide rarely beats itself; same with Stanford.

    The Trojans? They’ve shown themselves to lack discipline both on and off the field.

    *** USC must have big plays to win.

    If the Trojans are forced to repeatedly execute 8-to-10 play drives covering 70+ yards, they have no chance.

    *** This series, as many are no doubt aware, went through a stretch of sizzling finishes: From 2010-2014, every game went down to the wire.

    Last year, not so much. USC took early control, but Stanford dominated the second half and won by 10.

    I’d expect the outcome Saturday to look more like the ’15 result than the thrillers of past years.

    Stanford is favored by 6.5 points.

    That’s not enough.

    * Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

    * Episode 1 of the College Hotline podcast, with ESPN’s Ted Miller as guest:


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    by Jon Wilner
     

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