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Wolf: Which USC will show up for Pac-12 title game?

By in Press Enterprise on November 29, 2017

By Scott Wolf

LOS ANGELES — There is little logical reason to think anything other than USC will beat Stanford in Friday’s Pac-12 Conference championship game.

The Trojans are well rested after a week off while Stanford just played a physical game with Notre Dame.

But there is one troubling trend that adds some suspense to the outcome. Stanford has improved over the course of the season while USC has been up-and-down.

USC might overmatch Stanford talent-wise but that might not be enough to overcome David Shaw’s edge in coaching. Shaw has won three Pac-12 title games already, including a 41-22 victory over USC two years ago.

That really should not matter much against Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones, Deontay Burnett, etc. It sure didn’t back in September when the Trojans played perhaps their best game of the season and easily won 42-24.

“It was one of our better games,” Helton said.

The problem is nobody can predict which USC team will appear at Levi’s Stadium. The one that defeated Stanford or the one that nearly lost to Utah and UCLA?

On the other hand, Stanford is decisively better with K.J. Costello at quarterback than it was two months ago with Keller Chryst. The Cardinal defense, which Darnold exploited the first time around, is also better.

“We’ve got to be able to limit the explosive plays,” Shaw said. “That’s the thing where USC makes it tough on you. We missed a lot of tackles in the first USC game.”

If Stanford has an advantage it is in its consistency. It does the same thing every week and its coaches always seem to be on the same page.

That cannot be said of USC. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin might be mentioned for the Tennessee job, but he expressed dissatisfaction with his role at USC well before the Volunteers had an opening.

Martin does not like getting […]    

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