San Francisco Chronicle
Who: Stanford (0-1) at No. 14 USC (1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Los Angeles
TV/Radio: / 104.5, 680
Story line: In a game of disparately experienced quarterbacks, Stanford sophomore Tanner McKee will make his first start against Kedon Slovis, who already is among USC’s all-time top 10 in completions and total offense. Two years ago, Slovis made his first collegiate start against Stanford and ripped apart the Cardinal for 377 passing yards and three touchdowns in a debut that foreshadowed a career that’s put him in the conversation for the NFL draft’s first round.
“He really showed something special,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of Slovis. “As much as anything, he showed an ability to anticipate, get the ball out of his hands, and put the ball in tight windows . ... Our guys remember that one extremely well.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Keeping it 100: Saturday marks the 100th meeting between Stanford and USC, the Cardinal’s second-most-played opponent behind Cal (123). The Trojans hold a 63-33-3 lead in the series that is becoming an early season tradition, with both teams saving a later date to play Notre Dame.
For the first time since 1945, Stanford and USC did not play in 2020 because of the coronavirus-shortened season.
“Absolutely, I missed playing them last year,” Shaw said. “I’m a West Coast kid. I’m a Pac-8, Pac-10, Pac-12 guy. Stanford and ’SC always play. There’s a lot of crossover and communication with our alumni. It’s always a special game.”
Slot stuff: Kyu Blu Kelly’s acrobatic interception in the end zone Saturday earned Pro Football Focus’ “Play of the Week” award and was part of a season-opening performance that has the Stanford junior cornerback back on NFL scouts’ radars.
Working mostly against Kansas State’s slot receivers, Kelly didn’t allow a single catch on 29 snaps. This week, he’ll get some matchups against London Drake, who had 12 receptions for 137 yards against San Jose State.
“I think he’s got a chance to be really special,” Shaw said of Kelly. “That game was indicative of how hard he’s worked to put himself in that position . ... Kyu is out to become a really good all-around corner, and this game is another opportunity to do that.”
Beating the spread: USC was expected to run an Air Raid-style offense under second-year coordinator Graham Harrell, but the Trojans went with a ton of formations featuring one running back and two tight ends in their season opener against San Jose State.
In fact, USC’s multiple-tight end groupings almost looked like a typical Stanford team.
“Stanford was kind of the first in our league to be able to say: ‘Hey, a tight end is just not a tight end. He can spread out,’ ” USC head coach Clay Helton said.