You would have to live under a rock to not know about the Ducks’ game this week. People all over the country have been salivating and waiting for this since the moment Michigan State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. But did you know that there is one other Top-25 Pac-12 match-up this week? While USC @ Stanford can’t quite beat the shine of the Ducks-Sparty game this week, it does come pretty damn close.
USC @ Stanford — 12:30 PM (EST), ABC
Last season the Trojans stunned the Cardinal with a last second field goal to win the game 20-17, in a contest played in the second half of the season. This year the game is played very early on and both teams come into the game ranked, Stanford No. 13 and USC No. 14. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this game has huge post-season implications for both teams.
Under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, USC stomped on Fresno State last week and showed that they are a team to be taken seriously. Stanford did the same to FCS foe UC Davis, leaving fans of football everywhere excited for next week’s game.
Unlike last season, the Trojans have chosen one quarterback in junior Cody Kessler who impressed everyone last week by going 25-of-37 for 394 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
More importantly, fans and opposing teams alike got to see true freshman wide receiver Juju Smith in action. And he played to impress with four receptions for 123 yards. Not wanting to be left behind, fellow starter Nelson Agholor had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. In the running game, Javorius Allen had 133 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan was no less impressive last week, going 12-of-16 for 204 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Cardinal are replacing star running back Tyler Gaffney from last season.
Barry Sanders, who is projected to replace him, did not impress last week going 43 yards on seven carries. Ty Montgomery, Hogan’s favorite target, had five catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, both teams did well last week. Stanford, which had one of the best D-units in the country last season, showed that they are just as good this season, holding UC Davis to a total of 115 yards. USC, who definitely faced a tougher opponent last week, held Fresno State to 317 yards.
Heading into this game, the teams are matched evenly. Both teams are equally motivated to beat the pants off the other and have a lot on the line. One thing to keep in mind is that USC hasn’t won at Stanford Stadium since 2008, so you know the fans are going to try to help the team keep that trend going for another two years.
Michigan State @ Oregon — 3:30 PM (EST), Fox
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, fans have been looking forward to the MSU-UO game since the moment last season ended. It is arguably the best non-conference game in all of college football this season; eyes all over the country will be on these two teams as they battle on Saturday.
Both teams are highly ranked with Oregon at No. 3 and Michigan State at N0. 7. You’ll get to see one of the best offenses in college football go head-to-head against one of the best defenses in the country. Oregon is known for its speed (and for its uniforms), while Michigan State is known for its physically dominant, down-and-dirty defense. Score projections for this game are all over the place, depending on whom you’re rooting for.
Last week both teams starter units were in top form. The Ducks’ offense dazzled South Dakota, winning the game 62-13. Heisman candidate QB Marcus Mariota passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, as well as rushing for 43 yards and one touchdown – even though he played onlyin the first half.
On the receiving corps, Byron Marshall had eight receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. True freshman running back Royce Freeman made a great impression in his first college game as he carried 10 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
The Spartans’ defense shut down Jacksonville State last week, allowing only 244 yards and two touchdowns– both of which happened late in the fourth quarter when some of Michigan State’s starters were no longer on the field.
Looking back at last season, the Ducks averaged 45.5 points and 565 yards per game. The Spartans’ defense, on the other hand, allowed only 251.9 yards per game. The thing to remember, however, is that Michigan State lost almost half of its defensive starters, though a few key players did return. Oregon returns almost all of their offensive starters from last season and the only major question mark was the receiving corps after losing Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to injury. If last week is any indication, both teams replaced their departed players with those who are every bit as good.
In less than 24 hours we’ll be ready to watch two back-to-back Top-25 match ups!
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
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