- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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LOS ANGELES -- USC (7-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) plays host to No. 4 Stanford (8-1, 6-1) on Saturday in a battle of two Pac-12 squads that are rolling right now. Spirits are sky-high for a Trojans team that is coming off a 62-28 victory over California, improving their record to 4-1 since Ed Orgeron took over as interim coach. They have a tall task on their hands, however, in an extremely physical Cardinal team that took down then-No. 3 Oregon last Thursday in impressive fashion. Stanford also has a leg up on USC as far as recent history is concerned, taking five of the last six meetings between the two programs.
Scoring: 31.9 points per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 49 overall)
Rushing: 205 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 28 overall)
Passing: 183.2 yards per game (No. 12 Pac-12, No. 104 overall)
Total: 388.2 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 81 overall)
Quarterback: No. 8 Kevin Hogan (6-foot-4, 228 pounds, Jr.)
Directing a balanced attack with an emphasis on the power-run game, Hogan doesn’t put up the biggest numbers, but he ranks No. 32 in the FBS in passing efficiency and more than fulfills his role within the offense. He can also do some damage on the ground when he needs to.
Gaffney is the workhorse in Stanford’s grind-it-out offense, averaging 115.9 rushing yards per game -- the No. 12 mark in the nation. He ran for 157 yards and one touchdown on a school-record 45 carries versus the Ducks last week.
Montgomery is a dynamic playmaker who leads the Cardinal with 41 receptions for 639 yards and five touchdowns. Cajuste, who is second on the team with 21 grabs, returned last week after missing the previous game with a knee injury.
While the Cardinal have had a run of outstanding receiving tight ends in recent years, they haven’t filled the void created by the departures of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo following last season, and this unit has a total of just six receptions in 2013. Still, they continue to play an important part in the success of the Stanford rushing attack.
Offensive Line: LT No. 70 Andrus Peat (6-7, 312, So.), LG No. 54 David Yankey (6-5, 313, Sr.), C No. 65 Khalil Wilkes (6-3, 286, Sr.), RG No. 76 Kevin Danser (6-6, 296, Sr.), RT Cameron Fleming (6-6, 318, Sr.)
Headlined by All-American Yankey, the Stanford offensive line is an incredibly deep and talented group that sets the tone up front with an aggressive brand of play. They’ve allowed a nation-best average of just three tackles for loss per game and have only given up nine sacks.
Scoring: 19.4 points per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 18 overall)
Rushing: 98.7 yards per game (No. 1 Pac-12, No. 9 overall)
Passing: 250.1 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 98 overall)
Total: 348.8 yards per game (No. 3 Pac-12, No. 20 overall)
The Cardinal have owned the defensive line of scrimmage this fall thanks in large part to the effort of this group. An attacking bunch, they lead the way for a defense that compiles an average of 3.3 sacks per game -- the No. 4 mark in the FBS -- and got a big boost last week with the return of Anderson, who missed the previous six games due to injury.
Murphy is a force from his outside linebacker spot, leading the Pac-12 in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (14). Skov, the veteran on the inside, paces the team with 72 tackles.
The Stanford secondary has performed solidly, but it has given up a significant amount of yards through the air -- although that is partially due to the fact that opposing offenses typically abandoning the run early. Carter, who has started 17 straight games, is the team’s top cover man,
The Cardinal possess one of the top safety duos around in Reynolds and Richards. Reynolds, the leader of the defensive backfield, is third on the team with 58 stops, while Richards has amassed a team-high three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Punter: No. 14 Ben Rhyne (6-2, 202, Sr.)
Rhyne averages 41.5 yards per punt.
Kicker: No. 19 Jordan Williamson (5-11, 191, Sr.)
Williamson has hit 13 of 17 field goal attempts while drilling 20 of his 41 kickoffs for touchbacks.
As a team, Stanford ranks No. 5 in the Pac-12 with a punt return average of 9.3 yards.
Kick returner: Montgomery
Montgomery is a feared commodity to say the least, averaging a nation-best mark of 33.6 yards per kick return, and he’s taken two back for touchdowns.
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