1. The streak
Stanford has won three straight in this series, but as last season’s 56-48 triple-overtime thriller showed, it hasn’t been easy. If Stanford were to come away with a victory this time around, it would mark the first time in the history of the series that they’ve taken four in row from USC.
2. Josh Nunes in the spotlight
With the loss of Andrew Luck to the NFL, the Stanford quarterback job now belongs to junior Josh Nunes, and despite a slow start he has performed solidly overall. But facing San Jose State and Duke is a lot different than going up against USC, and he’ll need to stay poised at center stage. The Stanford offense will also look for him to continue stretching the field, as he did against the Blue Devils.
3. Can the Stanford secondary contain Matt Barkley and company?
The Cardinal secondary racked up an impressive three interceptions last weekend, but it also gave up 363 yards through the air. On Saturday they’ll have to up their level of play against an explosive passing attack led by Heisman candidate Matt Barkley.
4. Will Stanford establish the run?
One of the keys to Stanford’s success in recent years has been the power running game, but against Duke the Cardinal ran for only 92 yards -- this after averaging 210.6 yards a contest in 2011. Stepfan Taylor -- who is No. 3 on the Cardinal's career list for rushing yards -- will attempt to return to his usual form against USC.
5. Stanford front seven vs. USC ground game
Led by one of the top linebacker units in the nation, the Stanford front seven have been phenomenal in allowing an average of just 49.5 rushing yards a game. They’ll face a USC ground attack that finally got rolling in Week 2, accumulating 258 yards.