The Stanford Cardinal will need Josh Nunes to step up at quarterback, the defense to pressure Matt Barkley, get some big plays from Stepfan Taylor, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz and hope Ryan Hewitt loosens up the USC Trojans defense.
Todd Husak is a former Stanford quarterback who is now the color radio announcer for Stanford football, and he's now a contributor at Rule of Tree in helping produce top-notch analysis of the Cardinal. His analysis of this week's upcoming game against USC is well-worth a read regardless of whether you're a Stanford or a USC fan.
He later did a Q&A in the comments with various commenters, and it's also well worth a look. After the jump, here are some snippets of some of the finer points of this week's game.
Is the "generate turnovers and get big plays on special teams" formula a sustainable one for Stanford? Or is the offense going to have to continue to catch up? ~Jeff Nusser, CougCenter
Stanford scored TDs on special teams and defense against Duke. The offense hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. Until it does, they are going to need to continue to get production out of the return game and big plays on defense.
USC ran the ball better against Stanford than anyone else all season a year ago. Don’t be surprised if USC tries to establish the run game early on and make the Cardinal stay honest by slowing down the blitzes.
What about the run game? I haven’t heard much talk about what happened (or didn’t happen) in our run game on Saturday. I’m more than a little scared that we just weren’t able to get much going on the ground. And that was all-too-apparent against SJSU. Of course, the trade-off is that we allowed Nunes to get some touches and get into a bit of a rhythm in the air. Which do you think was more important? And are you at all concerned about the (lack of) run game? ~CardiGirl
Duke was committing the entire front 7 and the 2 safeties to stopping Taylor and that left 1 on 1 coverage outside. Shaw and the coaching staff need to prove that Stanford can beat that strategy in order to maintain balance and keep defenses honest. They did at times (Nunes had 3 TDs) but need to do in consistently which will soften the D and allow Taylor more room to run.
It is also a risky strategy by the defense because there is no second level defender to stop Taylor. If he can get through the initial surge, he can break off some long runs.