Preview: Cal at USC

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, CA
September 22, 2012
TV: Pac 12 Networks

Cal is off to its worst start since 2003, boasting a lone victory over FCS Southern Utah, after falling to Nevada and Ohio State. The good news for Jeff Tedford is his team remaining competitive in each loss. The bad news is that the schedule doesn’t get any easier along the way.

The Bears will meet the Trojans for the 100th time in a series dominated by USC. Tedford enters 1-9 versus Southern California, with the only victory being the most memorable. The 2003 Bears upset No. 1 USC, which ultimately denied the Trojans a trip to the Sugar Bowl, and gave us our only split national title of the BCS era. The victory was thought to trumpet the rise of the program, but Cal has since lost 8 straight to the Men of Troy, while continuing to underachieve in each passing year.

California Golden Bears (1-2)
National Rank: none
Last week: No. 12 Ohio State 35, 28

Offense

WR Keenan Allen

Zach Maynard leads the offense with a quarterback rating of 147.3. The senior is completing more than 66 percent of his passes through the first 3 games, for a total of 740 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. His brother, Keenan Allen (2012 Biletnikoff Watch-list), is the primary receiving target, having placed first-team All-Pac 12 in 2011. Allen recorded a career best 13 receptions against the Trojans a year ago, which placed him third all-time for a single-game in Bears history. He poses a triple-threat, with the ability to punish a defense through receiving, rushing, and returning punts. Allen also has three career pass completions in as many attempts.

Cal has developed a history of 1000 yard rushers and Isi Sofele is the current lead. The back rushed for 1,322 yards in 2011 and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry in 2012. Brendan Bigelow provides a one-two punch, after breaking out for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Buckeyes last week.

has developed a history of 1000 yard rushers and Isi Sofele is the current lead. The back rushed for 1,322 yards in 2011 and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry in 2012. Brendan Bigelow provides a one-two punch, after breaking out for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Buckeyes last week.

Defense

Cal led the conference in total defense and pass defense in 2010-11, but the current Bears have surrender 30-plus points to each opponent in 2012. The unit allowed more than 400 total yards to both Nevada and Ohio State, and 351 yards to FCS Southern Utah.

The Bears have experience in the defensive backfield, but enters with a national ranking of 85th in pass defense (257.00), while allowing opposing quarterbacks a pass efficiency average of 148.76. Safety Josh Hill is the active career-leader in tackles, and will be making his 24th start on Saturday.

A player to watch is defensive end Deandre Coleman, who recorded a career-high 8 tackles in the opening loss to Nevada. The junior appears on the Hendricks watch-list and is pitted against Trojan tackles that struggled to protect in the Stanford loss.

USC Trojans (2-1)
National rank: 13 (AP), 12 (Coaches)
Last week: No. 9 Stanford 21, 14

Offense

Khaled Holmes

The Trojans have to regroup and recover after a flat performance against Stanford. In search of a fix for the offensive line, Lane Kiffin has reopened competition at left tackle, where Aundrey Walker has started in the first three weeks. Walker is now pushed by Max Tuerk, as the team looks to provide better protection for its quarterback.

Khaled Holmes would be an instant fix, if his health allows him to return for Cal . Cyrus Hobbi started in his place against the Cardinal, where he had a rough go for four quarters. If Holmes is unable to participate, senior Abe Markowitz is designated to start at center on Saturday.

USC is still lacking production on the ground, which didn’t assist in lightening the load for a troubled passing game last week. The Trojans ran for just 26 total yards, with both Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal sustaining injuries that sidelined them for portions of the game. The lack of depth became evident, as fullback Soma Vainuku was quickly cast into the role as the team’s primary ball carrier.

USC ranks 67th nationally in total offense (401.67) and 6th in conference. WR Marqise Lee leads the Pac 12 in receptions (9.67 pg), receiving yards (121.0 pg), and kick returns (30.00).

Defense

The Trojan defense did some things well against Stanford, but also misfired on two key areas of containment. The unit was unable to corral Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor, who finished with 153 rushing yards at an average of 5.7 yards per carry. It also played its first game of the season without registering a sack.

With an average of 8 tackles per game, Dion Bailey leads all players. The linebacker is also the team leader in interceptions, picking three passes in the last two weeks. Hayes Pullard was moved back to the outside, after starting at middle linebacker for the first two games. Lamar Dawson returned to the middle last week against Stanford. Safety T.J. McDonald had a team high 9 tackles against the Cardinal, and was used extensively in blitz packages.

USC is allowing opponents an average of 20 points per game, with a national rank of 60th in total defense (378.67).

Analysis: Southern California’s recent dominance over Cal is due in part to its ability to stop the run. The last Bear to rush for 100 yards against a Trojan defense was Justin Forsett in 2007, which also marks the last time Cal came within single digits of a win. In the next four meetings, Cal would rush for 27, 47, 52, and 35-yards as a team, as USC cruised to lopsided victories. Though Allen is the offensive star, it’s important for the Bears to establish Sofele early. It is also important for Cal to minimize errors to avoid a repeat of history. Bears quarterbacks have compiled a 2:6 touchdown to interception ratio in the most recent games versus USC. Maynard threw three interceptions in the 30-9 loss a year ago.

X-FactorKeenan Allen– USC kept him out of the end zone in the last meeting, but really had no answer for him on the field. Tedford will create multiple opportunities for production, by lining him up in as many places as possible, and using several options to get the ball in his hands. The 13 receptions for 160 yards serve a reminder of how difficult the assignment was for Trojan defensive backs last year.

All-Time Series: USC leads 64-30-5
Streak: USC has won 8 straight
Last Meeting: USC 30, Cal 9 (San Francisco, CA)

Fun Facts

  • Cal and USC meeting for the 100th time on Saturday
  • Cal has lost three consecutive conference openers, after winning its first six under Jeff Tedford.
  • Jeff Tedford is 13-21 versus ranked opponents, 1-9 versus USC
  • Cal has lost 7 consecutive games versus ranked opponents
  • USC has outscored California 125-29 in the last 4 meetings
  • The Trojans have outscored the Bears 93-3 in the first half of the last 4 games.
  • The Cal football roster consists of 28 players from Southern California
  • The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the only natural grass surface the Bears will play on in the 2012 regular-season.
  • Cal last defeated USC in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2000
  • Cal’s 29 players on NFL rosters is second-most of Pac 12 schools, trailing only USC
  • Cal has eclipsed 500 yards of total offense in each of its last two games
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~ by Anthony on September 19, 2012.

3 Responses to “Preview: Cal at USC”

  1. […] Home › NCAA Football › Preview: Cal at USC […]

  2. If Barkley and Kiffin want to show anything to the CFB world, not only is the Cal game a MSUT win for ther Trojans, the offense must show its firepower and completely blowout Cal, and slap 60+ points on the board. The defense must limit Cal to <20 points, and very low yardage. FIght On. I wihs the team godspeed, and truely show the world that "a bear does shit in the woods".

    • The most important thing is winning, but I agree with you on the Trojans needing to win big to stay in the national championship race. Ohio State beat Cal last week and dropped in the polls, because the 7-point victory wasn’t enough to impress voters.

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