California Golden Bears (3-2, 1-1) at USC Trojans (4-2, 1-2)
Time: PM PDT
Radio: KXSC (listen at kscr.org), 710AM
USC’s offense is coming off a commendable performance in which they managed to score 35 on the Stanford defense. Matt Barkley aired it out with precision in throwing for 390 yards and Robert Woods collected 224 receiving yards to compliment his three touchdowns. While the aerial attack was successful, the running game was lacking. USC couldn’t seem to open up big enough holes and the backs had trouble establishing a rhythm. The story might be similar this weak, as the Trojans face a Cal defense that does well against the run. Although UCLA used its power rushing game to topple Texas, Cal found a way to limit the Bruins to 26 yards on 26 carries. Mike Mohamed in the middle is the heart and soul of the defense and will pose problems for USC. Excluding the Nevada game, which appears to be an aberration, the Cal defense is surrendering 6.75 points per game. As in weeks past, it looks as though the offense will have to carry the defense and score on nearly every possession to win.
The past two weeks, the USC defense has been nonexistent. Granted, they forced three turnovers, but they couldn’t slow down the Stanford offense enough to win the game, and they surrendered a ton of yards. Furthermore, they are on pace to allow the most yards per game on defense in school history by 42 yard and rank nearly last in the major defensive statistical categories in the country. For USC to beat Cal, the defense needs to step up and finally force the opposition to punt more than once a game. Running backs have been able to run through gaping holes for the majority of the season, and the outlook is grim this weekend. Shane Vereen, who may be better than last year’s running back Jahvid Best, is a speedy back with good athletic ability. He posted 151 yards on 25 carries against a UCLA defense known for clogging the run.
Meanwhile, the secondary should get a break after facing the likes of Jake Locker and Andrew Luck. Senior quarterback Kevin Riley is in his third year as a starter, but the best word to describe his play is serviceable. Riley can’t handle pressure well and his mentality isn’t something you would want younger players to learn. He often hangs his head after incomplete passes and interceptions and doesn’t exude confidence in the least. Against UCLA, he only threw for 83 yards and has 9 touchdowns to go with his 4 interceptions on the year.
For a USC team dealing with the difficult circumstances of NCAA sanctions, the back-to-back losses at the gun can’t be easy to deal with. However, the mood can change with a victory over Cal. USC needs to win this week to get into their bye week at 5-2. A victory would lift the team morale and give the team the confidence it needs during the two weeks it will have to practice for a showdown with No. 2 Oregon.
Stats of the Week:
Final Score Prediction: