USC vs. Cal Match Up


USC goes to the Bay Area for the annual Weekender to face the California Bears at Memorial Stadium. Wait…what’s that? They’re actually playing at AT&T Park because Memorial Stadium is under construction, and the game is on a Thursday night? So the Weekender is really the Middle of the Week…er? REALLY? What a joke.

Typically this game is played on a Saturday and thousands of USC students make the trek to Nor Cal for the game, but since ESPN obviously hates USC (kidding!) they scheduled a weekday game much to the chagrin of many Trojan fans. As a Nor Cal resident, I was quite disappointed to know that I would not be attending my last weekender, but I will be at Notre Dame next week, so all is well that ends well.

But will it end well for the Trojans on Thursday night?

Based on recent history, all signs point to yes. While the Trojans have gone back and forth in the past few years with Oregon, Stanford, and U-Dub, the Trojans have successfully slain the Golden Bears repeatedly since 2003. That year, the Trojans lost in a crazy triple-OT thriller, back when current Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers was the QB for the Bears. In the past three match ups, the Trojans have outscored the Bears 96-20. Cal is one of those teams that is frustrating to watch because when they are on, they are fire, but when they are off—and they certainly have been off when they face ‘SC—they are absolutely terrible. They are currently 0-2 in conference play, after a solid 3-0 start.

So yeah, fate is on USC’s side for this one.

Not only is the past an indication of how the future might play out, but the factors present in this game line up nicely for the Trojans as well.

Cal’s pass defense—better yet, their ENTIRE defense—is horrifyingly bad, especially with the loss of their best cornerback, Marc Anthony. Cal is going to find itself hard pressed to shut down Matt Barkley’s big guns of Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, and it is entirely plausible that Woods, who has established himself as the best receiver west of Oklahoma (We’re looking at YOU, Justin Blackmon), could run away with a ton of yards this game to continue his record-breaking performances. Cal’s run defense also performed extremely poorly against Oregon—but in fairness, whose doesn’t?—giving up more than 200 yards to running back LaMichael James alone. USC might get lucky and actually be able to establish a running game led by Marc Tyler, but don’t count on it. The passing game once again will carry USC over the Golden Bears, and the offensive line will continue to look for some continuity as Minnesota’s favorite son Lane Kiffincontinues to play running back shuffle.

Former Trojan phenom safety Taylor Mays disrupting a play

On the other side of the ball, USC’s defense shouldn’t have as difficult of a time getting a pass rush off, but Cal quarterback Zach Maynard will be trying to fire it off quickly and often. His favorite target and half-brother Keenan Allen showed particularly well in their game against Oregon that he is calm under pressure, and uses his height and long arms to get to the ball. He’s averaging 17.1 yards from 39 receptions, so it will be key for the USC back seven to jam him at the line to disrupt the timing of his routes, and cover over the top with a safety. Running back Isi Sofele has been the Pac-12’s best kept secret, averaging a 5.5 yards per carry and just under 100 yards a game (including a 10 yard per carry game against Oregon), but the USC D-line has a knack for collapsing holes, so Sofele might be rendered ineffective.

Based on these factors, it would almost be fair to say this game could come down to the wire, that it would be close and another shootout. I could say that the USC secondary will struggle yet again against a threat like WR Keenan Allen, and QB Maynard will have his way with them. I could say that without a running game, USC will have difficulty winning.

I could say that, but I won’t.

USC has used Cal as its punching bag since the first 150 Pokemon, and there is no reason as to why this won’t happen again this season. The Trojans need to beat up on someone again this season (Syracuse doesn’t count) and gain some confidence, so why not put the smack down on the Golden Bears? Nothing short of a miracle could stop it.

USC will win, 42-7 and will go into South Bend to face Notre Dame the following week, 5-1.

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. If you’re in the Bay, hit up AT&T Park or the surrounding bars to catch the game, and if you’re in LA, just tune into ESPN for coverage. The boys are back after the bye week, and they are ready to go to work!Game on.