The most overwrought storyline of college football's Week 3 is that Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley has never beaten Stanford. In case you haven't heard by now, Barkley is 0-3 against the Cardinal. But without Andrew Luck at Stanford, the expectation is that USC will win easy. That's mostly because Stanford is starting the inexperienced Josh Nunes at quarterback.
Stanford has a chance in this game, though, thanks to an offense that can rely on two top-end tight ends in Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. They only have a combined 10 catches through two games, but both have first round potential. The Cardinal should also be able to get pressure on Barkley. Stanford has arguably the best linebacker group in the Pac-12 with Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas leading the way.
This will be a good test for Barkley and maybe the best defense he'll face all season. Find more on this game after the jump.
USC Trojans 2013 NFL Draft prospects:
Offense: No. 2 - Robert Woods, WR - 6'1, 190 pounds (Junior), No. 7 - Matt Barkley, QB - 6'2, 230 pounds (Senior), No. 78 - Khaled Holmes, C - 6'4, 305 pounds (Senior), No. 22 Curtis McNeal, RB - 5'7, 190 pounds (Senior), No. 25 - Silas Redd, RB - 5'10, 200 pounds
Defense: No. 7 - T.J. McDonald, S - 6'3, 205 pounds (Senior), No. 96 - Wes Horton, DE - 6'5, 255 pounds (Senior), No. 21 - Nickell Robey, CB - 5'8, 165 pounds (Junior), No. 29 - Jawanza Starling, S - 6'1, 200 pounds
Stanford Cardinal 2013 NFL Draft prospects:
Offense: No. 86 - Zach Ertz, TE - 6'6, 252 pounds (Senior), No. 11 - Levine Toilolo, TE - 6'8, 265 pounds (Junior), No. 23 - Stepfan Taylor, RB - 5'11, 215 pounds (Senior)
Defense: No. 11 - Shayne Skov, MLB - 6'3, 242 pounds, No. 44 - Chase Thomas, OLB - 6'4, 248 pounds, No. 49 - Ben Gardner, DE - 6'4, 275 pounds (Senior), No. 15 - Usua Amanam, CB - 5'10, 176 pounds (Senior), No. 93 - Trent Murphy, OLB - 6'6, 261 pounds (Junior)
Key matchup: Southern California's safeties against Stanford's tight ends
There hasn't been much said about Southern Cal safety T.J. McDonald yet this season. He's a good safety in the box playing the run, but there are questions about his ability to play coverage. He could help his draft stock if he's lined up in man situations against Ertz or Toilolo.
Question of the day: How will Southern California's offensive line hold up?
If there is a weakness for the Trojans on offense, it's along the line. The playing status for center Khaled Holmes is uncertain, which could be problematic. Barkley can get the ball out quickly, but he may have to speed up his reads against an aggressive Stanford defense.