USC has had a resurgence since Ed Orgeron took over as interim head coach. The Trojans have won four of their last five games, but will get their toughest test Saturday when No. 4 Stanford comes to the Coliseum (5 p.m. PT, ABC).
Here are five things to watch in the Cardinal-Trojans matchup:
1. A line of scrimmage game: Orgeron said earlier in the week that this is going to be a “line of scrimmage” game. Stanford is a team that has built its identity on power football and the Cardinal are strong up front on both sides of the ball. The Trojans say they are ready for the challenge and a big key to those efforts will be the health status of Leonard Williams. The star defensive end is battling a shoulder issue that caused him to miss the Cal game.
2. Toting the rock: Each team will be looking to establish the run, but will be doing it with very different tailbacks. Stanford will rely primarily on fifth-year senior Tyler Gaffney, a tough runner between the tackles who has already gone over 1,000 yards on the season. Gaffney has been a workhorse with 211 carries, including 45 in the victory over Oregon. The Trojans will likely counter with Javorious Allen, who only has 51 carries on the year but the majority of his production has come in the last two weeks with 22 carries for 268 yards and five touchdowns. Allen has shown a mix of speed and power that has been a spark for the USC run game.
3. Don’t forget the playmakers: With so much attention being paid to the battle in the trenches, it’s easy to forget that there are some pretty explosive players in this game. The Trojans have Marqise Lee -- who is as healthy as he’s been in a while -- and Nelson Agholor, who returned a pair of punts for touchdowns last week. Lee has yet to have a breakout game in 2013 and he would love nothing more than to do it on this kind of stage. Stanford counters with Ty Montgomery, a dynamic all-around weapon who can run, catch and hurt you on special teams.
4. Believe the hype: With College GameDay in town, a sold out Coliseum and a nationally televised game, the spotlight doesn’t shine much brighter. You have a Stanford team that is looking to stay in the national championship race while the Trojans want to keep the momentum going. To add to all that, you have the fact that Stanford has beaten USC four times in a row, the longest such streak for the Cardinal in this rivalry.
5. Orgeron making his case: When Orgeron was named the interim head coach there weren’t many who gave him a real chance to get the full-time job, but that sentiment has started to change lately with the way the Trojans have been playing. This game offers Orgeron a huge chance to prove his case with how his team performs with such high stakes on the line. If the Trojans can win the game, or at least continue to play hard for him, it will give Pat Haden a lot to think about in terms of Orgeron’s candidacy.