No. 13 Stanford, No. 14 USC ready to renew rivalry

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ | September 5, 2014 | 1:06 PM EDT

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan throws against UC Davis during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — The coaches have changed, and so have the players. The drama has remained the same.

In a series that dates back to 1905, Stanford-Southern California has been among college football's best matchups in recent years. The games have featured action-packed performances, verbal confrontations and usually major implications in conference and national championship races.

The programs will begin another chapter in their long-running rivalry Saturday when new coach Steve Sarkisian and the 14th-ranked Trojans (1-0) visit No. 13 Stanford (1-0) for an early season Pac-12 showdown.

"When both teams have been ranked, when one team has been ranked, it hasn't mattered," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "The games are tight, and the games are exciting. They're fun to watch."

As if the series needed another subplot, Sarkisian's addition is giving it an extra twist.

The game will be the first time Sarkisian and Shaw meet on the field since Sarkisian accused Stanford of faking injuries to slow down his up-tempo offense at Washington in the Cardinal's win over the Huskies last season. Shaw refuted Sarkisian's allegations a few days later with a strongly worded statement on a national conference call and during his weekly news conference.

Both coaches have tried to quiet the chatter over the dispute this week. Each said there is no animosity between them and they are focused on the game, which recent history suggest will be another close one.

Three of the past four meetings between USC and Stanford were decided by a last-second score, including a triple-overtime thriller in 2011, and the underdog has won the last two years.

The Cardinal took down the second-ranked Trojans in September 2012, with fans rushing the field at Stanford Stadium in a wild celebration. The Trojans ended a four-game losing streak to Stanford last season, ending the Cardinal's national-title hopes with a 20-17 victory in Los Angeles.

"They got us for a while, and then we got them," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said.

Now the Trojans are trying to regain conference supremacy by beating the two-time defending Pac-12 champions at Stanford Stadium, where the Cardinal have the nation's longest active home winning streak at 17 games. Given what has taken place between these teams lately, though, players on both sides know what's at stake.

"I don't need to give a speech for this football game," Shaw said. "We just need to open the doors and let them play."

Here are some things to watch when Stanford and USC meet Saturday:

PACE OF PLAY: The Trojans will try to speed things up and spread things out on offense, while the Cardinal will look to slow things down and pack things in. USC gained 701 yards while running a conference-record 105 plays in a 52-13 win over Fresno State last week.

Stanford's defense didn't allow UC Davis to cross midfield until the final play of a 45-0 rout, and its offense typically tries to control the clock with a power running game. What pace the game is played at could be critical.

RESPECT THE QUARTERBACK: Shaw referred to Kessler and Stanford's Kevin Hogan as the "Rodney Dangerfields of the quarterbacks" this week, suggesting the two don't get any respect. Kessler came on strong late last season and threw for 394 yards and four TDs in USC's win over Fresno State. He underwent an unspecified procedure on one of his toes this week but said he's fine.

Hogan has guided the Cardinal to consecutive titles in his first two seasons but had the worst game of his career against USC last year, completing just 14 of 25 passes for 127 yards and throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter.

GAME CHANGER: Sarkisian's Huskies outplayed Stanford on offense and defense last season. But wide receiver Ty Montgomery made up for the Cardinal's shortcomings with his electric play on special teams.

He racked up 204 yards returning kicks, including going 99 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff. The All-American kickoff specialist also is returning punts this season, taking his first one back 60 yards for a score against UC Davis.

WILLIAMS VS. PEAT: USC defensive end Leonard Williams and Stanford left tackle Andrus Peat are projected to be high first-round picks in next year's NFL draft, so it could be quite the spectacle whenever they line up against each other. Williams injured one of his ankles in practice Tuesday but is still expected to start against Stanford's rebuilt offensive line, which features four new starters next to Peat.

TROJAN THREAT: Nelson Agholor looked comfortable replacing the departed Marqise Lee as USC's top receiving threat in the season opener, catching two touchdown passes and finishing with 57 yards receiving. He caught eight passes for 104 yards against Stanford last season.

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this story.