- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

No. 24 Southern California (8-4, No. 20 CFP) vs. No. 7 Stanford (10-2, No. 7 CFP) at Santa Clara, California, 7:45 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Stanford by 4 1/2.

Series Record: USC leads 61-30-3.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Cardinal still have hopes of squeezing into the College Football Playoff with a conference championship and an upset or two in other title games. The Trojans are trying to cap a drama-filled season with a title in Clay Helton’s first game as USC’s permanent coach.

KEY MATCHUP

USC third-down defense vs. Stanford third-down offense. The Cardinal use a ball-control offense that is keyed by their success on third down. Stanford leads the Pac-12 and ranks fifth in the nation with a 50.9 percent conversion rate. The Cardinal converted 8 of 12 third downs in the first meeting with USC. But the Trojans have been stingy, allowing a Pac-12 best 34.4 percent conversion rate for the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

USC: Ronald Jones II. Jones had just six carries for 19 yards in the first meeting but his emergence has been a big reason for USC’s late-season success. He broke Charles White’s school rushing record for freshman with 890 yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

Stanford: Christian McCaffrey. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is the third player in FBS history with at least 3,000 all-purpose yards in a single season. McCaffrey needs 216 this week to break boyhood idol Barry Sanders’ record of 3,250 set in 1988. McCaffrey is averaging 252.9 all-purpose yards per game.

FACTS & FIGURES

Five of the past six meetings between the teams have been decided by one score or less with Stanford winning three. … The Cardinal won 41-31 at USC in September. … Stanford is in the Pac-12 title game for the third time in four seasons. … USC is making its first appearance in the game. The Trojans won the division in 2011 but were ineligible for the postseason. … Helton will coach his first game at USC since having the interim tag removed earlier this week. He is 5-2 since replacing Steve Sarkisian. … The Trojans have outrushed opponents by 139 yards per game since Helton became coach. … Trojans RB Justin Davis is coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. … The Cardinal have scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. … Stanford QB Kevin Hogan has 10,225 yards of total offense in his career, second in school history to Andrew Luck’s 10,387.

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