USC Trojans/Cal Bears: Questions, Questions…and a Couple Of Answers


As the USC Trojans, emotionally hurting with the unfortunate accident to Stafon Johnson still fresh in their minds, prepare to meet an angry Cal Bear team this Saturday in Berkeley, the men of Troy face a myriad of questions.

Can the Trojans “compartmentalize” their emotions regarding Johnson, who is recovering from a serious weight room accident which left him a with a crushed larynx, and focus on taking care of the Bears?

I received a comment from another writer that I am making too much of this factor but I don’t buy it.

Young men, playing on a tightly knit team, can go one of two ways when a teammate falls with a devastating injury, especially one that was life threatening.

They can let their concern distract them from the task at hand or they can focus and use it as motivation.

I am betting on the latter but it is a question that ultimately must be answered on the field.


What will the Trojans running back rotation look like now that Johnson is out for the year?

Logic states that CJ Gable and Marc Tyler moves up but that isn’t really the question.

The real question is how many additional carries will this translate to for Allen Bradford?

Bradford, who had a monster game against the Washington State Cougars, averaging over nine yards per carry, was probably going to get more playing time anyway but now with Johnson out, I expect him to get the bulk of the carries, especially in short yardage situations.

Can the Trojans eliminate the mental mistakes that saw them commit 13 penalties against the Cougars last Saturday?

They better. If they don’t, USC will be in for a long game against the Bears.

Pete Carroll has made cleaning up the penalties a focus this week.

Penalties against the offensive line, a strength of this years team, must be eliminated and special teams penalties cost the Trojans some nice returns. This must be fixed.

Speaking of special teams, the Trojans had better find a field goal kicker, and they better do it fast.

A botched hold by a woozy Garrett Green, who had his bell rung on the opening kickoff, resulted in a missed extra point and later they missed a very makeable field goal.

In a game on the road against a quality opponent, those points may come in handy.

Finally, can the Trojans use the Oregon defensive game plan against the Bears?

The Ducks stacked the line against Cal, bottled up Jahvid Best, Cal’s dynamic running back, and forced Kevin Riley, Cal’s quarterback to beat them.

He couldn’t and the Ducks rolled to an impressive victory.

While I expect USC to rely less on stacking personnel on the line due to the Trojans exceptional speed (especially linebacker Michael Morgan and safety Taylor Mays), I still suspect that Pete Carroll will align his defense with the notion that he would rather take chances with Riley than the supremely talented Jahvid Best.

So there you have it.

A few questions that the Trojans face in this critical early season conference game.

If they lose this game, the Trojans can pretty much count on falling out of the national picture when it comes to participating in a BCS bowl.

Not to say it is impossible but two losses this early in the season does not bode well.

Can the Trojans answer these questions successfully and move forward in what has already been a difficult season?

Only time will tell.