Stanford still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff, while USC is playing its first game with Clay Helton as permanent head coach.
So who wins? Or maybe a better question, who are you rooting for? The South, or The North? Here are our predictions:
Gabe Encinas: Stanford took down USC earlier in this season, and I think they'll do it again. USC was still under Steve Sarkisian at the time, and it was a relatively close game throughout, but this Stanford team is good.
I'm a huge fan of Christian McCaffrey, who leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 252 a game. No other Division I player comes close, with San Jose State's Tyler Ervin coming in second with 200 all-purpose yards a game.
One number I really love out of Stanford is their points per game. Since their loss to Northwestern in week one, they have put up 30+ points in every game this season. Now that's a high-powered offense. Not saying that Stanford should roll over USC here, but I just think that Stanford is better coached, and more talented.
Final Score: 34-27 Stanford
Alec Sills-Trausch: Stanford is a great team and USC probably has the most talented athletes west of Tornado Alley. In other words, does anyone really know what is going to happen?! Currently, Vegas is giving Stanford the nod as a 4.5 point favorite, which I think is completely fair.
However, I think USC is going to pull it out.
With Cody Kessler at the helm and playing at the highest level of the season (9 TD's, 1 INT) in his last four games, he's found a way to trim down the turnovers which had plagued him at the beginning of the season. Furthermore, they have arguably the best WR in the nation with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 74 receptions for 1302 yards and 10 TD's. If it's not already obvious he's their top target, their next leading receiver has only 382 yards. I feel this combination, along with a renewed emphasis on the running game, will help put them on top.
On the Stanford side, as Gabe already noted, is the Pac-12 Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey, who can't be ignored. Strangely, McCaffrey didn't score in the first match-up between these teams and I doubt that trend continues past the first quarter. In addition, QB Kevin Hogan who has 2500 yards and 23 TD's, has been playing lights out of late and like his predecessor, is much more agile than given credit for. Keep an eye out for how many third down scampers Mr. Hogan attempts as the game winds down.
Without rambling on too much, I feel USC, with their newly signed full-time HC, is much better suited to beat the Cardinal now than on September 20th. They have the players, the momentum, and the skill to bring the Pac-12 Championship to the South division for the first time.
Final Score: 42-27 USC
David Potts: My initial reaction here was that USC is not very good and Stanford will win convincingly. My usual practice, though, is to judge my initial reaction against Bill Connelly's S&P+. This game is much closer than I expected per those numbers. Stanford still has the edge, but it isn't by much and certainly not by the 4.5 points Stanford is favored by.
With that in mind, I'm going to go with Stanford. Stanford already beat USC once, and I'm probably influenced by how badly Stanford beat Arizona (and how USC squeaked by). I'll take Stanford 31-28, with David Shaw committing five or six infuriating coaching decisions that somehow end up working out for the Cardinal.
Jack Davis: I think that USC pulls this one out. They look like they might have something in Coach Helton. Sark is gone, so I expect the team will play up to how they're capable with all the talent they have. Cody Kessler will have a big game and connect with Smith-Schuster on several big plays. Kessler will continue his hot streak and lead the Trojans to a big win.
Stanford is certainly an intriguing pick with Kevin Hogan playing well and McCaffrey playing like a Heisman contender, but I think USC has enough talent on defense (Su'a Cravens, Cam Smith, Adoree Jackson) to slow them down if they play up to their potential.
Final Score: 35-21 USC
Ryan Kelapire: This is a tough game to predict, to be honest. While I think USC is the more talented team, I trust Stanford and their style of play much, much more. And that Christian McCaffrey guy is pretty good. Plus, it's hard to ignore that Stanford already beat USC this season and that game was in Los Angeles. So I think the Cardinal will win this neutral site game 35-31, but still, this is the Pac-12 and nothing ever makes sense, so a USC win wouldn't be surprising at all.
Jason Bartel: I have Stanford riding the wave from last week's win over Notre Dame to a big win here. This is McCaffrey's chance at having a Heisman-defining moment, and the team's chance to get the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff. I think the Cardinal win big, 45-20.
And here's the complete schedule for Conference Championship Saturday. Happy viewing!