Like Oklahoma and Penn State, USC was looking to score revenge for one of their key losses from a season ago, and they got it. The Trojans shrugged off a rusty start in their season opener against Western Michigan and went right to work at home against Stanford.
Quarterback Sam Darnold looked like the preseason Heisman favorite he was hyped to be with 316 passing yards and four touchdowns on a 21-of-26 night. The Trojans used a running duo of Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones to the tune of a combined 235 yards and two touchdowns (both scored by Jones) to complement an effective pass attack. In all, USC rolled up 307 rushing yards against the Cardinal, essentially beating Stanford by playing like Stanford.
It ended up being a long night for the Stanford defense, which had been worked over a couple of times a year ago. The Cardinal are still likely to be a player in the Pac-12 North race, but there was no denying USC on Saturday night in the Coliseum. The Trojans silenced any critics that popped up after last week’s game against Western Michigan, myself included.
USC will hope to keep that good vibe going next week when they play host to the Texas Longhorns, who moved on from a dismal season opener against Maryland to smack around San Jose State, 56-0. The bad news for Texas is USC isn’t San Jose State.
USC and Stanford being Pac-12 contenders, along with Washington, was to be expected this season. But earlier in the day, the rumblings from Autzen Stadium continued to grow a bit louder as well.
Justin Herbert shined in Oregon’s 42-35 victory over visiting Nebraska and in the first half, it looked as though Chip Kelly was back coaching with Marcus Mariota at times. But this is Willie Taggart’s team now, and the offensive production through two games has been encouraging to see from the Ducks.
Don’t toss Oregon right into the thick of any Pac-12 championship hunts yet, but the Ducks look revitalized after a rough 2016 season. Herbert passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns, albeit against a Nebraska team that is a far cry from their celebrated days of dominating shutdown defense. Nebraska is going to be in some trouble in Big Ten play if that keeps up. Oregon, meanwhile, might just be enough of a problem to make things interesting in the Pac-12 North.
It was not a flawless victory for the Ducks, however. Oregon led Nebraska 42-14 at halftime and had to come up with an interception to prevent a second-half rally by the Huskers from tying the game. The defense did its job, though, with four interceptions, which led to 14 points by the Ducks offense (and a missed field goal).
There may be some mixed feelings on whether this game spoke more about Oregon’s turnaround under Taggart or Nebraska’s continued struggles to win a big game since joining the Big Ten, but the Ducks needed a good start to get things going in Eugene. After two games, the offense has racked up 119 points and the Ducks are 2-0 a year after winning just four games. The Quack Attack is coming back.
This coming week will pose an interesting challenge for Oregon, as they make a trip over to Wyoming to face Josh Allen and the Cowboys. There is an opportunity to string together a few more wins before a key stretch of games in conference play.