Rivalry between No. 6 USC and Stanford gets its final chapter — for now

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rivalry began in November 1905, when Stanford spoiled the University of Southern California's very first football game outside the southern end of the state by beating the Methodists 16-0.

The matchup between the two most prominent private schools on the West Coast became an annual affair in 1918. It persevered through two world wars, several conference realignments — and even Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh sarcastically asking each other: “What's your deal?”

This venerable rivalry gets its 103rd chapter on Saturday night at the Coliseum when No. 6 USC (2-0) hosts the Cardinal (1-0), but this particular showdown is a melancholy moment.

It's the final meeting for the foreseeable future between two private schools with a rich history, a healthy dislike and many shared attributes — but no longer a shared conference in 2024.

“That's just crazy, knowing the history of Stanford and USC,” Trojans defensive back Calen Bullock said. "It's a big rivalry, and this is the last time, so we've got to go out and make it a good one.”

The rivalry is important to the veteran players on both sides who have already felt the buzz when these teams meet. Both schools have had eras of dominance in the 21st century when the current players were growing up.

"This is why you play college football,” Stanford right tackle Connor McLaughlin said. “All the early workouts, all the time invested, all the sacrifices you have to make – 7:30 p.m., prime-time kickoff, rivalry game, packed house. That’s college football.”

This rivalry is beloved among the graduates of these two well-heeled schools, both of which only admit people with incredible intellectual credentials — or incredibly deep pockets. Both athletic departments have expansive financial resources that make everything easier — from rebuilding an entire stadium in 10 months, as Stanford did, to making massive infrastructure improvements across campus while also paying top dollar for Lincoln Riley’s services, as USC is doing.

Both coaches are newcomers to the rivalry, however: Riley’s Trojans won 41-28 at Stanford last season in his second game, while Troy Taylor took over at Stanford this season after David Shaw's 12-year tenure ended.

“I think that’s what college football is all about, is those battles and those rivalries that have been going on for hundreds of years,” Taylor said. “I think it’s really cool, and I know the fans appreciate it.”


The meeting is also the first conference game in the breakup year for the Pac-12, the league shared by USC and Stanford in various iterations since 1922. USC and UCLA announcing they are abandoning the Pac-12 for the Big Ten one year ago catalyzed the conference’s collapse, with Stanford’s move to the ACC along with California last week essentially completing its bizarre, sudden demise.

“This is our last conference game against Stanford, so we're treating this like a championship game,” USC linebacker Raesjon Davis said. “We've got to do our jobs and come out with the dub.”


USC beat its first two nonconference opponents this season by a combined 122-42 with an offense that looks just as dangerous as last season's group — and a defense that has better players, but hasn't yet shown it's better than last year's unit.

Stanford began Taylor's tenure with a 37-24 victory at Hawaii. Quarterback Ashton Daniels was sharp in his debut start, passing for 248 yards and hitting tight end Benjamin Yurosek with nine passes for 138 yards and a TD.

“The whole game, (Daniels) was cool as a cucumber,” McLaughlin said. “Makes everyone else feel better.”


Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams has passed for 597 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions in USC's first two games, completing nearly 74% of his throws. He chewed up Stanford last season with 341 yards passing and four TDs.

Taylor said Stanford will attempt to prevent Williams from extending plays, but the coach also admits Williams is "good in the pocket. ... He’s a player that really doesn’t have any weaknesses, and he’s got exceptional talent around him.”


Taylor was born in Downey, a Los Angeles suburb, but went to high school near Sacramento before joining the Golden Bears. He lost all four of his meetings with the Trojans from 1986-89, and the first was particularly painful: The Trojans broke his jaw at the end of his freshman appearance at the Coliseum.

“It’s a great place,” Taylor said. “There’s obviously tons of history, not just football-wise. It’s a great place, great venue. A lot of good memories, some not-so-good memories.”


The schools began meeting regularly in September, usually on Week 2, about a decade ago. They did it to accommodate their mutual rivalry with Notre Dame, allowing both to schedule that nonconference game later in the calendar.


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