Stanford vs. USC matters
Loser will surely fall out of Pac-10 title race
PULLMAN – Two years ago, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh took his team into the Los Angeles Coliseum as a 41-point underdog and won 24-23.
This week he’ll take the Cardinal down the same path, with a much tighter line and much more at stake.
“It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Stanford football,” Harbaugh said Tuesday.
Though Harbaugh still admits that upset of then-No. 2 USC in 2007 was “a great thrill,” he knows it has little relevance.
Saturday’s game, no matter who wins, won’t capture the country’s fancy like that one did. But it will decide which team stays in the Rose Bowl race and which drops out.
Both have two Pac-10 losses – Stanford is 5-2 while USC is 4-2 – and, with Oregon and Arizona up ahead with one each, the loser can forget about a Pasadena date.
“It’s a very competitive conference,” Harbaugh said. “We knew that right from the beginning. Everybody is going to be fighting here. It is November. These games, they don’t count any more than the ones in October or September do … but they sure do stand out.”
But games two years ago certainly have no bearing.
“It’s so far gone, we don’t even think about it,” USC coach Pete Carroll said, noting there are only a few current Trojans who played that day.
The Cardinal (6-3) will be trying to follow another stunning upset, last week’s 51-42 shocker over Oregon, with a solid win against a team Harbaugh thinks is a mirror image of his own.
“I enjoy watching that style of football,” he said. “It presents a lot of challenges for us.”
In one way the Cardinal are different – and are different than every team in the nation – they have a key player going both ways.
Owen Marecic not only lines up in front of Toby Gerhart at fullback – he’s gained 13 yards on five carries this season though he mostly opens holes with his blocking – with a season-ending injury to Clinton Snyder, he played linebacker against the Ducks, making a tackle.
“It’s an enormous challenge, first of all, knowing how much it takes to play on either side of the ball,” Carroll said of Marecic’s play. “He’s such a good football player that he’s making it. And I’m sure he’s having a ball with it.
“We can’t get kids to do one or the other.”
He better this week. There’s a lot riding on it.