STANFORD, Calif. — After getting carved up for 641 yards passing and six touchdowns by Sam Darnold last year in two losses to Southern California, Stanford coach David Shaw might be looking forward to going up against an unproven freshman quarterback for the Trojans this year.
Shaw saw enough of JT Daniels on the recruiting trail and in film of his one college start to know the 10th-ranked Cardinal (1-0) shouldn't expect any kind of breather when they host Daniels and No. 17 USC (1-0) on Saturday night in an early-season Pac-12 showdown.
"There are a few quarterbacks who you run across that you just know they're going to be good," Shaw said. "There are guys that are older in their play. You see him and he looks like a kid and then he puts his helmet on and he's not a kid anymore, he's a quarterback."
The 18-year-old Daniels was one of the top recruits in the 2019 class before he graduated high school early and signed as part of the 2018 class. He won the starting job and fared well in his opener, throwing for 282 yards, including a 43-yard TD pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown in USC's 43-21 win over UNLV.
Daniels figures to have a much tougher test this week against a Cardinal defense that allowed only 12 first downs and one long drive in a 31-10 win over San Diego State.
"Stanford is an excellent opponent, but I can't treat them any different than I would UNLV or any different than I would Alabama," Daniels said. "Every opponent has to be the same in terms of you break down the film, you stay on schedule, you prepare and then you go play."
Here are some other things to watch:
BOTTLED UP BRYCE: Last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love was held to 29 yards on 18 carries in the opener for Stanford against a defense keyed to stop him at any cost. The Trojans struggled against the run in the opener, giving up 308 yards on the ground to a much less accomplished UNLV. Love had 39 carries for 285 yards and two TDs in two games against USC last year.
JJ'S JUMP BALLS: Stanford WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside took advantage of all the attention paid to Love, catching six passes from QB K.J. Costello for 226 yards — the third most in school history — along with three TDs and a 2-point conversion. That kind of performance figures to take pressure off Love and the running game.
"To be able to put on film that we can take advantage of a team that completely sells out to stop the run, we have to do that," Shaw said. "As much as anyone, Bryce is excited about it."
BROTHERLY LOVE: The game features a pair of wide receiver brothers with freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown suiting up for USC and older brother Osiris, a redshirt freshman, playing for Stanford. Amon-Ra had an impressive debut. His seven catches were the most ever by a USC freshman in a debut and he had 98 yards receiving and a touchdown. Osiris caught one pass last week.
"(Osiris) told us they talked about the game but they're not going into detail about it," Arcega-Whiteside said. "At least not yet."
LONG HISTORY: Shaw's Stanford teams have a long history against USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. The two have gone against each other seven times in the past eight years, with three meetings coming when Pendergast ran the defense at Cal and four times at USC. Pendergast has won three of the matchups, including both last year. Stanford has averaged 28 points in those games.
"We go all the way back for years on different things he's done against us, different things we've done against him," Shaw said. "What's worked for him, what's worked for us. Sometimes what's worked one game doesn't work in another game."
EARLY SHOWDOWN: For the third straight year, these teams are playing in Week 2 of the season, an unusually early time for what is often such an important conference matchup. With Stanford and USC locked into long-term deals to play Notre Dame usually in either October or Thanksgiving weekend, this rivalry has often been held in September. Shaw said neither school wants to give up the Notre Dame game but hopes the conference can figure out a way to push this rivalry later in the season.
"If we tweak the conference scheduling hopefully we can push this USC game back at least a week," he said. "I'd like to have two games under our belt before."