Pac-12 Championship Game: Can USC beat Stanford a second time?

(via Getty Images)

Pac-12 Championship Game
No. 10 USC (10-2) vs. No. 12 Stanford (9-3)
Dec. 1, 8 p.m. ET, Santa Clara, California

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:

USC: The Trojans slipped up in September on a Friday night visit to Washington State. But it’s important to remember that USC was banged up in that game and it was a road trip on a short week.

That game was USC’s only conference loss of the season. Since losing at Notre Dame, USC has reeled off four-straight wins and enters Friday night’s game off a bye week thanks to its bizarre schedule this season.

USC and Stanford met in Week 2 in Los Angeles. USC won 42-24 as the offense rolled up 623 total yards against the Cardinal. If you take away that game from Stanford’s defensive statistics, the Cardinal defense has given up 369 yards per game and would be ranked No. 48 in total defense. In reality, Stanford’s defense has given up over 390 yards per game on average and is ranked No. 61.

Stanford: The Cardinal have been one of the more impressive teams in college football over the past two months. After that Week 2 USC loss, Stanford went on the road to San Diego State and lost 20-17 to the Aztecs in a game that was delayed in the fourth quarter because the lights went out at Qualcomm Stadium.

Since then, Stanford has won eight of nine games. The only loss came in a 24-21 defeat at Washington State. That loss meant Stanford’s Pac-12 North hopes were riding on Washington in the Apple Cup in Week 13 since the Cardinal beat the Huskies 30-22. Washington beat Washington State, getting Stanford into the Pac-12 title game and a shot at exacting revenge on USC.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

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RB Bryce Love, Stanford: We’ve been telling you to watch Love all season long, so this is a pretty boring choice here. But let’s frame it in the context of the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is going to win the Heisman unless something absolutely insane happens in championship weekend.

That insanity would mean Mayfield throws four or five interceptions against TCU while Love runs for 300 yards against the Trojans. In Week 2, he had 17 carries for 160 yards and a score against USC. Yeah, it’s a long-shot that he’ll get any closer than a distant second to Mayfield, but who the heck knows what can happen.

(via Getty Images)

RB Ronald Jones, USC: While a lot of attention has been lavished on USC QB Sam Darnold this season, Jones is the meal ticket for USC. The Trojans ran for over 300 yards in that Week 2 win over Stanford and Jones had 116 of those yards along with two touchdowns.

When USC was blown out at Notre Dame, Jones just had 12 carries for 32 yards. He’s surpassed the 100-yard mark in nine of USC’s 11 games and has scored eight touchdowns in USC’s last four games. If Jones breaks the 100-yard mark and scores once or twice on Friday, USC is going to win.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Because it’s the only conference championship game on Friday night. It’s our last Friday night football game of the year. And it should be a good game with some of the most talented offensive players in the country. And it’s on at 8 p.m. Eastern so there’s no excuse for falling asleep in the first half for much of the country’s residents.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE: The Pac-12 is the ignored conference when it comes to the College Football Playoff in 2017. Every other Power Five title game is a potential win-and-in game for its participants while the conventional wisdom assumes the Pac-12 winner is on the outside looking in.

But what happens if USC blows out Stanford again? If the Trojans do that and Ohio State and TCU have slim wins over Wisconsin and Oklahoma, respectively, USC is going to have its own case for the playoff. It may not be very good, but 11-2 USC’s resume would look a lot better than 11-2 Ohio State’s or even 11-2 TCU’s.

PREDICTIONS:

Nick Bromberg: USC 38, Stanford 27

Sam Cooper: USC 28, Stanford 24

Cody Brunner: USC 34, Stanford 21

Other conference title game previews: AAC, Big 12, Group of Five

Coming Friday: ACC, Big Ten, SEC


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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!