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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Barkley, Luck look to deliver primetime win



US Presswire
Matt Barkley (left) and Andrew Luck (right) will try to lead their teams to victory on Saturday night.

The spotlight this weekend will be on the men under center when the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans face off Saturday night in a primetime showdown at 8 ET on ABC. College Gameday will be Los Angeles for the second straight year and eighth time overall. USC is 6-1 in the previous seven such matchups, with the lone loss coming last year vs. Oregon.

QBs in the Spotlight
Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are two of the top pro quarterback prospects expected to enter the draft this spring. In his latest Big Board, Mel Kiper Jr. has Luck as the top-ranked player overall and Barkley as the No. 3 quarterback.

One key to Luck’s success is the chemistry he has developed with his tight ends. Stanford’s tight ends have been targeted on nearly 40 percent of his pass attempts and have caught 15 of his 20 touchdown passes this season.

Luck typically lines up with two-or-more tight ends on nearly a quarter of his attempts and has thrown at least two touchdown passes from that formation in five of seven games this season.

Barkley has thrived this season with the deep ball. He hasn’t thrown an interception on a throw of 15-plus yards in 59 attempts and has completed at least three throws of 15-plus yards in six straight games.

Both quarterbacks have also shown the ability to lead sustained drives. Stanford has gone “three-and-out” on six percent of their drives, the lowest percentage in FBS, while USC ranks second in the country at seven percent.

Key Matchup
Last week, Stanford ran for a school-record 446 yards, including 248 yards on 24 first down carries. The Cardinal had three rushes of 20-or-more yards and averaged a season-high 10.4 yards per play on first down in the game. Overall this season, Stanford is averaging 8.0 yards per play on first down, tied for the third-highest mark in FBS.

The Trojans will need to improve their first-down defense, which is tied for 94th in FBS, if they want to keep this game competitive. USC allowed 7.4 yards per play on first down last week against Notre Dame, and has allowed a play of 10-plus yards on nearly 25 percent of their first down plays this year.

Stat of the Game
Stanford has won 10 games in a row by at least 25 points, the first team in the AP Poll era (since 1936) to do that. Stanford also owns the longest active win streak in FBS, at 15 games, and is outscoring its opponents during this stretch by nearly 30 points per game.