LOS ANGELES -- USC’s George Uko is all too aware of what kind of test is coming when the Trojans face No. 4 Stanford on Saturday. As a redshirt junior who has played in the last two matchups between the two programs -- both Cardinal victories -- he knows that it’s going to be marked by one thing above all else -- physical play.
“This game is always a dogfight,” the defensive end said. “You know they’re going to come out, and they’re going to play hard every snap, and we’re going to have to come out and play hard every snap. It’s a full sixty-minute game of physicality.”
And with these two teams, the most important battle figures to take place at the line of scrimmage.
“Whoever is going to win the war up front, is going to win,” USC interim coach Ed Orgeron said.
Stanford’s rushing attack churns out 205 yards a game and the Cardinal offensive line is the foundation of their ground-it-out style. For Uko and the Trojans defensive line, they know they’re facing a particularly steep challenge.
Led by 2012 All-American guard David Yankey, Stanford’s line is filled with imposing talent. For Uko, what stands out most about the group, isn’t their aggressiveness, but how technically sound they are -- a credit to the tutelage they receive from Stanford offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren.
“They’re really well coached,” Uko said. “They’re good at angling, they’re good at getting their hands inside … they’re just outstanding with their technique.”
But Uko, who is in the midst of his most productive season as a Trojan, is anything but intimidated by the prospect of going against such a formidable unit.
“You love when you get a game set to be put on your back like this, because the way the game now is played in college football, everything is put on the perimeter,” said Uko, who has 26 tackles and four sacks this fall. “You don’t really see too many games that come down to the big men nowadays.”
Taking on more of a leadership role in his fourth season at USC, Uko is part of a defensive front that has garnered a fierce reputation of its own. They are now an integral part in the team’s resurgence under Orgeron. Alongside established standouts like outside linebacker Devon Kennard and end Leonard Williams -- who says he will play on Saturday after missing last week’s game due to a shoulder injury -- Uko and the Trojans defensive line has played at an extremely high level this season. The Trojans now rank No. 17 nationally against the run (113 yards allowed per game), and No. 10 in sacks (3.1 per game).
And it’s because of the success that they’ve had that they enter this weekend’s game full of optimism.
“They’re going to be the best offensive line we face all year, but at the same time I’m sure we’re one of the best defensive lines they’re going to see all year,” Uko said. “I expect it to be a great matchup. They’re solid all across the line, and then all across the line we’re good, so it’s just going to be about who wants it more.”
And if Uko is right, then a USC team whose confidence is at an all-time high after winning four of their last five games, looks to be in good position Saturday.
“We all have the utmost confidence in our coaching staff and in our team,” Uko said. “And with the whole Trojan family behind us, we all believe we can go out there and get this done. We just have to believe.”