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No. 14 USC Trojans meet Stanford Cardinal in early Pac-12 play

Sep 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;   USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) sets to pass in the first half of the game against the San Jose State Spartans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) sets to pass in the first half of the game against the San Jose State Spartans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 Conference play will kick off Saturday night in Los Angeles between in-state rivals Stanford and No. 14 Southern California.

The Trojans (1-0) overcame a sluggish offensive performance, including four red-zone opportunities that produced just one touchdown and three field goals, with a stifling defense in a 30-7 Week 1 win over San Jose State.

The first two of the Trojans’ three touchdowns came off interceptions: the first, a Drake Jackson pick in San Jose State territory that set up a 29-yard Kedon Slovis scoring strike to Tahj Washington; and the second, Greg Johnson’s 37-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

“I was just dropping in my zone and reading the quarterback’s eyes,” Johnson said. “I noticed that they ran that play earlier in the game, so I just made the most of the opportunity.”

Click here to find out where USC’s Kedon Slovis ranks on our list of top 10 college football quarterbacks

Opportunity is a key word for both the Trojans and Pac-12 counterpart Stanford (0-1), which coach David Shaw said fell victim to an “opportunistic” opponent Week 1 in Kansas State.

The Cardinal sputtered offensively in a 24-7 loss, scoring only in the fourth quarter after the outcome no longer was in doubt. The Cardinal gained just 233 total yards and only 39 rushing, gave up three sacks, and were penalized nine times for 65 yards.

Penalties and negative-yardage rushing plays forced Stanford into repeated third-and-long situations, which resulted in the Cardinal going just 4-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts.

Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings – Alabama still heavy favorite after crushing Miami in Week 1

Shaw said Tanner McKee will start at quarterback Saturday. McKee threw for Stanford’s lone score in the opener — a 14-yarder to Bryce Tremayne. McKee finished 15-of-18 for 118 yards and split time with Jack West, who was 8-of-12 for 76 yards.

The Trojans, meanwhile, will look to turn up the pressure after going without a sack in Week 1.

Jackson, the team’s sack leader in 2019 with 5.5, said following last week’s win that the inability to get to San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel was a rare disappointment on an otherwise solid outing for the Trojans defense.

Stanford’s defense was left in unfavorable situations due to offensive inefficiency — only one of Kansas State’s scoring drives covered more than 62 yards. That came on a 71-yard drive, capped by a 59-yard Deuce Vaughn touchdown run.

Wide receiver Drake London is USC’s primary big-play threat. Among his 12 receptions in Week 1 was a game-long 34-yarder.

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–Field Level Media