USC (6-3) at California (1-8)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (63,000) -- Berkeley, California.
Television: FOX. Home Record: USC 4-1, Cal 1-5. Away Record: USC 2-2, Cal 0-3.
Neutral Record: USC 0-0, Cal 0-0. Conference Record: USC 3-2, Cal 0-6. Series
Record: USC leads, 64-30-5.
GAME NOTES: On Saturday the USC Trojans will go after their first three-game
winning streak of the year when they make the trek to Memorial Stadium to take
on in-state rival California in a Pac-12 Conference tilt.
It seems that Ed Orgeron may be a bit more than a replacement for fired Lane
Kiffin. Since Orgeron took over, the Trojans have gone 3-1, including
impressive wins over Arizona (38-31) and Oregon State (31-14). The resurgence
has thrust USC back into contention for at least a more high profile bowl
game, as they are sporting a 6-3 mark overall and a 3-2 ledger in conference
California got a new coach to start the season and the Sonny Dykes era has not
yielded much in terms of positive results. In fact, other than a 37-30 victory
over FCS foe Portland State, the Golden Bears have been unable to put anything
else in the win column. Since topping the Vikings, the Golden Bears have lost
seven straight games, including all six against the Pac-12. The most recent
setback was a 33-28 loss to Arizona.
Every year since 1926 these teams have butted heads. In that time USC has
claimed a convincing 64-30-5 all-time series edge, including wins in every
meeting since 2003. Last year Silas Redd ran for 158 yards and a touchdown and
Curtis McNeal added 115 yards on 10 carries to lift the Trojans to a 27-9
Redd missed the first five games of this season but has come on strong since
his return. He has rushed for over 100 yards in two of the four games he has
been featured in, including a season-high 140 yards on 22 carries against
Oregon State. Javorius Allen (250 yards, five TDs) was also impressive against
the Beavers as he rushed for 133 yards and three scores. Redd and Allen join
Tre Madden (671 yards, three TDs) in one of the more talented backfields in
Another important improvement for the Trojans was the play of Marqise Lee. The
defending Biletnikoff Award winner has not been himself this year, partially
due to injury, which lost him two games, but also just plain poor play. Lee
looked back to normal against the Beavers with 105 yards and a score on five
receptions. Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor (32 receptions, 612 yards, three TDs)
has continued to be a productive receiver for the Trojans.
Handing the ball off the Redd, Allen and Madden as well as making passes to
Lee and Agholor is Cody Kessler, who has been alright as the replacement for
All-American Matt Barkley. Kessler has completed 62.9 percent of his passes,
for 1,807 yards and 10 scores, while scattering six interceptions over his
nine starts. Kessler has not always been given great protection though, with
the Trojans letting up 19 sacks on the campaign.
What has really been impressive about Orgeron's Trojans has been there ability
on defense. Orgeron was the defensive line coach before Kiffin was let go and
he has carried that forward. The Trojans lead the conference in total defense
(323 ypg), while trailing only Oregon in scoring defense (18.7 ppg). The
pressure upfield from players like Leonard Williams (11.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and
Devon Kennard (9.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks) has been critical.
Though Dykes is clearly still building at California he has made an impression
on the California offense, which is one of the more pass-reliant squads not
only in the Pac-12 but the country. The Golden Bears are averaging 348.9 yards
per game through the air.
Leading that charge is freshman quarterback Jared Goff. The Golden Bears'
signal caller, like the rest of Dykes' team, is still learning on the job, but
he has piled up 2,881 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He had one of his
better games of the year against Arizona in terms of scoring, as he threw for
four touchdowns. However, he was intercepted twice and failed to reach above
300 yards for the third time in the last four games. Like Kessler, Goff has
suffered from poor protection as he has taken 26 sacks.
Even though Goff is constantly slinging the ball around, the receiving corps
for the Golden Bears does not feature a slew of productive contributors. Chris
Harper (62 receptions, 821 yards, five TDs) and Bryce Treggs (61 receptions,
642 yards, TD) are the best of the bunch. Richard Rodgers (33 receptions, 463
yards, TD) has been a solid third option, while Kenny Lawler is coming off a
three-touchdown performance against Arizona.
Injuries as well as the offensive system have limited the Golden Bears'
rushing attack. Daniel Lasco (284 yards, two TDs) returned after missing two
games to post 71 yards on 12 carries against Arizona. The 71 yards were a
season-high for the Golden Bears' leading rusher. Brendan Bigelow (280 yards)
and Khalfani Muhammad (261 yards, two TDs) have also gotten work at times.
While California has held its own on offense it has been terrible on the
defensive side. The Golden Bears are last in the Pac-12 in yards allowed
(529.8 ypg) and scoring defense (42.8 ppg). California doesn't get teams to
make many mistakes with only 11 forced turnovers, which has led to the worst
turnover margin (minus-14) in the conference.
The best way to disrupt the Golden Bears is to put as much pressure as
possible on their young quarterback. Every other team this season has been
successful in that area. The Pac-12's No. 1 defense should have no trouble
in that regard. USC meanwhile, should be able to move the ball at will with
Redd and Lee.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC 37, California 17
11/06 10:51:09 ET