If styles make fights, then Stanford's duel Saturday at USC will go to the wire -- just as it did last year.
And the year before that.
And the year before that.
No team in the Pac-12 is more like the Cardinal in philosophy and scheme than its ancient private-school rival. Both play hard-charging defense. Both favor what's often called a prostyle offense, with play-action passes, off-tackle runs -- and huddles.
In the six matchups since Stanford began its power-football ascent to prominence under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw, each team has one lopsided victory. The other four have been decided by eight points or less.
The last time they collided in the Los Angeles Coliseum, it took three overtimes to determine a winner. Stanford survived and has beaten the Trojans four years in a row, its longest winning streak in a series that dates to 1905.
"They kind of had the upper hand previously, but then the last few years we've managed to pull out some pretty close wins," Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson said. "This is a big game for them because they are trying to turn things around and get the USC moniker back to the old days."
It's a big game for both teams and will be televised nationally by ABC.
Fresh from its momentous victory over Oregon, the fifth-ranked Cardinal (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) needs to beat USC and Cal to clinch the North title and remain in contention for the national championship.
The Trojans have crawled back into the South race after a tumultuous opening month in which they imploded at home to Washington State, lost their best player to injury (receiver Marqise Lee), got blown out at Arizona State and subsequently fired coach Lane Kiffin in a parking lot at LAX after his flight home.
But interim coach Ed Orgeron, who takes his emotional cue from Pete Carroll, not the stoic Kiffin, quickly restored confidence and enthusiasm.
The Trojans re-established their running game behind a coalescing offensive line. Lee is back at full throttle. Sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler is settling in. And the defense, with former Cal coordinator Clancy Pendergast in charge, has been stout all season.
"I don't think anybody in the conference is surprised at how well they're playing," Shaw said.
"They've got good schemes, really good coaches, and they have talent. They're healthy now, and dangerous."
Had a handful of plays unfolded differently, USC would have won the past three matchups.
Stanford survived in 2010 when quarterback Andrew Luck directed a late drive that culminated in a winning field goal.
Its epic victory two years ago came about when USC's Curtis McNeal fumbled in the end zone in the third overtime.
Last season, a fourth-quarter touchdown catch by Stanford's Zach Ertz was the difference.
"I don't know what it is, but they've always played really good games against us," Anderson said. "It seems like we've always caught them at the point when they're playing really well."
It's no different this time around.
TURNING THE TABLES
Stanford (shown celebrating its 2012 win over USC) has won the last four meetings between the schools and five of six. Here's a look at the teams' six meetings since Stanford's 1-11 season of 2006:
2012* STAN, 21-14
2011 STAN, 56-48 3OT
2010* STAN, 37-35
2009 STAN, 55-21
2008* USC, 45-23
2007 STAN, 24-23
* -- Stanford home game
Stanford (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) at USC (7-3, 4-2), 5 p.m. ABC