LOS ANGELES -- After watching the game film and talking with coaches and NFL scouts, the consensus is in. Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck is the best player in the nation. So the question is: How can he be stopped? Many have tried. Few, if any, have succeeded. Luck boasts the longest winning streak in the FBS right now, and all roads lead to a Heisman Trophy and a possible trip to the BCS championship game. But the USC Trojans, who face him Saturday, are not ready to crown him. The Trojans defense must carry out several strategies if it is to stop the Heisman hopeful and possibly end Stanford's chances of playing for a Pac-12 or national title.
Stop the run
Even with Luck's ability to air it out and stretch the field vertically in the passing game, Stanford's is still a run-first offense. Of the Cardinal's 472 plays this season, almost 55 percent have been rushing plays. The Stanford running attack often gets overshadowed by Luck's ability, but without it he becomes almost human. The fact that the Cardinal run the ball so well puts Luck in favorable throwing situations, where opposing defenses have no choice but to play the run. That leads to them getting beat over the top. If the front seven bites hard on the play-action, Luck has three all-Pac-12 caliber tight ends who are sure to be wide open.
While Stanford is No. 17 in the nation with 219.4 yards rushing per game, the Trojans are no slouch themselves, coming into this game ranked No. 11 in the nation against the run, giving up only 91.1 yards per game. Last week against a very good Notre Dame rushing attack, the Men of Troy held the Fighting Irish to 41 yards. If USC is going to have any chance of stopping Luck, it all starts with taking him out of his comfort zone. By stopping the run and making the offense one-dimensional, the Trojans have a chance to do just that.