USC-Stanford grades: Return of the Christian McCaffrey Show

Cardinal's star running back and offensive line stand out in big win over the Trojans.

| 1 week ago
(Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)

USC-Stanford grades: Return of the Christian McCaffrey Show


Stanford Cardinal 27, USC Trojans 10

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Stanford’s 27-10 victory over USC in Week 3:

Stanford Cardinal

Quarterback grade: Ryan Burns, 64.2

Cardinal have a long way to go to replace Kevin Hogan

Kevin Hogan’s development over his Stanford career meant he was playing some excellent football by his final season. Ryan Burns wasn’t able to replicate that against the Trojans, throwing for only 102 yards and completing only eight passes over the game. This offense isn’t set up to produce monster numbers, but it will give its QB a chance to make some big plays, and while he completed one to Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in the game on a busted coverage that led to a 56-yard score, but he also missed McCaffrey later in the game on a double move that should have also gone for a big play.

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Top offensive grades:

TE Dalton Schultz, 76.4

RB Christian McCaffrey, 75.6

G David Bright, 72.6

C Jesse Burkett, 72.3

OL Brandon Fanaika, 72.3

It was the Christian McCaffrey Show once again

As you can see from the grades, this wasn’t a dominant performance from the Stanford offense, and McCaffrey’s grade is only as low as it was because of an early fumble. Outside of that, he once again carried this offense, gaining 100 yards on the ground after contact and 232 yards from scrimmage, scoring twice in the process. McCaffrey may not have the same offensive line as a year ago, but he is still capable of putting up huge numbers, and right now the team needs him to, because they are relying on big plays here and there to score the points.

The offensive line was good but not dominant, and it shows what kind of scheme they were running that a sixth lineman (Brandon Fanaika) can get on the field for 23 snaps and earn himself a place among the better grades.

Top defensive grades:

CB Alijah Holder, 89.0

DE Solomon Thomas, 76.7

CB Quenton Meeks, 76.0

S Ben Edwards, 73.6

CB Zach Hoffpauir, 70.5

Stanford has a couple of consistent defensive players in an otherwise average performance

The Stanford defense was far from excellent in this game, rather relying on a couple of players to consistently affect the Trojans offense. CB Alijah Holder was constantly alive to short things in front of him, leading the team with six tackles and four defensive stops. He was thrown at four times and allowed just two catches for two yards, staying just close enough to ensure USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster couldn’t come down with a one-handed catch down the sideline when thrown at.

Up front, Solomon Thomas notched three pressures, as one of only two players to have multiple pressures, and was their most disruptive lineman. He recorded a pair of defensive stops with his quick penetration into the backfield.

USC Trojans

Quarterback grade: Max Browne, 67.9

Not a strong performance from Trojans quarterback Max Browne

USC’s Max Browne did not have a great day at the office. While he completed 64.3 percent of his passes overall, and there were a couple of nice throws in there, he missed on too many routine plays and cost his team in places. Those 18 completions went for just 190 yards, and when under no pressure at all, he threw for just 5.4 yards per attempt. Add in a tendency to get spooked in the pocket and this was far from an assured QB performance against a pretty good Stanford defense.

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Top offensive grades:

T Zach Banner, 83.3

RB Justin Davis, 75.1

WR Deontay Burnett, 74.2

G Damien Mama, 74.1

WR Steven Mitchell Jr., 73.7

USC is its own worst enemy with penalty, communication issues

To amass five false start penalties in a single game is a pretty staggering performance from an individual offensive lineman, but that’s exactly what RG Viane Talamaivao managed for the Trojans. He even received three of them on the same drive, costing the team 25 yards just in false start penalties over the game.

The only thing in his favor is that he wasn’t the only lineman to go on a couple of those plays, so perhaps there were issues communicating the snap count on offense, but it was otherwise an inexcusable level of concentration. This offense isn’t good enough at the moment to overcome that kind of consistent drag, and it caused them to stall on too many drives over the game and lose pace with the Stanford offense.

Top defensive grades:

CB Adoree Jackson, 84.1

OLB Uchenna Nwosu, 79.1

LB Cameron Smith, 77.6

DT Stevie Tuikolovatu, 71.2

CB Iman Marshall, 59.5

USC is unable to deal with Stanfords power

Almost to a man, the USC defense was just not able to withstand the onslaught of power football that Stanford hammering it with all throughout the game. They had some plays of success, but across the board there were too many defenders losing their blocks and getting driven off the line for them to sustain success and stop drives. When they did win a block, Cardinal star RB Christian McCaffrey was able to make things happen himself, generating extra yardage and making people miss to move the chains. That extra yardage in and of itself was another black mark against a defense that allowed 161 total yards after contact to Stanford.

Game ball: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • zinn21 zinn21

    Adore Jackson is a beast. I want him on my team ASAP..