Heisman Trophy front-runner Matt Barkley is 0-3 against Stanford in his college career. But it’s a new season: No. 2 USC is playing for a national championship after two years of bowl ineligibility and Barkley’s former rival, Andrew Luck, is now calling signals in the NFL.
In addition to Barkley, the Trojans’ offense boasts what could be the best wide receiver tandem in the history of college football. Junior Robert Woods led all Pac-12 Conference receivers with 111 catches last season and teammate Marqise Lee had an explosive freshman year, snatching 73 balls for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Never seen a college team with two guys like this,” Stanford coach David Shaw said of the USC duo.
Shaw said the key to containing the receivers is solid gang tackling.
“You have to know where your help is, where your help is coming from,” he said. “You can’t count on just making a one-on-one tackle because those guys will make you miss.”
Nunes’ big test: The Cardinal rushing attack was held to less than 100 yards for the first time since Sept. 13, 2008 (49 games) against Duke on Saturday.
The Blue Devils routinely stacked nine men in the box, challenging Stanford to beat them through the air. In only his second game as a starter, quarterback Josh Nunes responded by completing 16-of-30 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns (he also threw his first career interception).
But the assignment gets tougher this week. Expect Trojans defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to throw the kitchen sink at Nunes.
“We go into this preparation knowing that there’s nothing that’s ever been done that Monte hasn’t done,” Shaw said.
Cal changes time zones: It’s never easy for Pac-12 teams to travel east and play competitively before the clock strikes noon on the West Coast. That’s the challenge Cal faces this week in Columbus, Ohio.
The Bears and the Ohio State Buckeyes are slated to kickoff at 9 a.m. Pacific on Saturday, but coach Jeff Tedford said he isn’t worried about the time swap this year.
“We’ve been practicing for two years in the morning now,” Tedford said. “This morning, we were on the field at 8 o’clock, so the kids are used to getting up early.”
Normally, the Bears travel on Fridays, but Tedford said the team is going to fly out on Thursday this week to give players an extra day to adjust their body clocks.
Discipline: How was Cal only ahead by three points heading into the fourth quarter against a Football Championship Subdivision team on Saturday? One word: penalties.
The Bears collected 10 penalties for 96 yards before halftime against Southern Utah.
“We have to make good decisions,” Tedford said.
The Bears have three new pieces on the offensive line this season and senior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin — who protects lefty quarterback Zach Maynard’s blind side — is out with a knee injury, so it could be easy to rack up penalties in the sure-to-be-noisy Horseshoe at Ohio State.
“If it’s very loud we may have a situation where [we] get a false start,” Tedford said. “But can’t have too many and we can’t let it affect us — we’ve got to move forward.”