Grading Stanford's big win over No. 2 USC:

  • Result: Beat USC 21-14

  • Grade: A

  • Comment: Can't say enough about ...

    1. Stepfan Taylor, who had 213 total yards and was responsible for all of Stanford's scoring, and majority of its yards from scrimmage, for the first 50 minutes.

    He's the third Cardinal tailback to rush for more than 3,000 yards, following Darrin Nelson and Toby Gerhart, and he's 4-0 against USC (with 418 yards)

    2. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason and his staff.

    They formulated a terrific game plan to contain the Trojans and clearly made optimal use of every second of meetings and practice last week.

    Robert Woods: four catches, 38 yards.

    USC on third down: 1 of 13.

    USC in the second half: 91 yards.

    Unreal.

  • Defensive end Ben Gardner played one of his finest games, his impact much greater than two tackles-for-loss would indicate.

  • How much damage did Stanford inflict on Matt Barkley's Heisman campaign? I'm a voter, and my answer is: Considerable.

    It's too early for final judgment; we'll see how Barkley and USC perform over the next 2.5 months. But you cannot play as poorly as Barkley played in a game of that magnitude. Not with those receivers.

  • Stanford's red zone offense must improve.

    The Cardinal failed to score a touchdown -- failed to score a point, actually -- on first-and-goal from the 2 against USC and through three games is converting just 45 percent of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns.


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    At some point, that will cost Stanford a win.

  • Quarterback Josh Nunes was mediocre, at best, until he made two big plays on what became the game-winning drive: One with his feet (first-down scramble), the other with his arm (touchdown pass to Zach Ertz).

    And those are the two plays that will have the greatest impact on his confidence ... and on his teammates' confidence in him ... going forward.

  • Doesn't appear Stanford has solved its problem at receiver. Of Nunes' 15 completions Saturday, 12 went to running backs and tight ends.

  • Next up: Bye, then at Washington (Thursday)

  • The matchup: Good time for a bye? Bad time for a bye? I don't think it matters either way for a team as experienced and steady as the Cardinal.

    And it's not a true bye week, anyhow.

    Because of the Thursday game in Seattle, everything is moved up two days: Stanford's game preparation, which usually starts on Monday, begins Saturday.

    Washington is also off this week, per conference policy regarding participants in Thursday games. (That's not the case with teams that play on Friday.)