USC Football Game Preview: Cal Bears


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

USC will try to find a remedy for their loss to Stanford last week, with a game against a very inconsistent Cal team, which has been their trademark of late despite being very talented. The game will kick off at 3pm at the LA Coliseum, televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

The USC offense showed signs of brilliance against Hawaii, and a conservative control against Syracuse. At Stanford, the Trojans unraveled on offense. The offensive line played poorly which not only halted any chance of getting a running game going, but put Matt Barkley under extreme duress all night long. When the offensive line lets an offense down, you expect the playmakers to make the best of their opportunities to lessen the blow of the line, but that didn’t happen last week, as Barkley had a bevy of poorly thrown balls even when he had time, which were coupled with a handful of drops by Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. If a running game can’t gain traction and Barkley is forced to throw on every down and predominantly under pressure, this isn’t a team worthy of being ranked 13th.

The California Golden Bears have plenty of talent on defense, as they sport a starting lineup with seven upperclassmen, including star corner Marc Anthony, a candidate for multiple awards including the Thorpe. Cal not only thrives in a 3-4 system, they do so with tremendous depth, as 16 players have started on defense and three players have more than 20 tackles through the first three weeks. Despite having a strong defensive backfield that includes senior safety Josh Hill, the Bears have been exposed at times in the passing game, as Southern Utah out of the FCS put up nearly 300 yards on the Bears, while Braxton Miller threw four touchdowns for Ohio State a week ago. For a secondary that’s been consistently solid in the Jeff Tedford era (they gave up just 187 yards per game in 2010), they’ll have their hands full with USC’s passing attack.

Zach Maynard leads an offense predicated on establishing the run in order to get the ball to their extremely talented wideouts. The Golden Bears not only have an All-American caliber receiver in Keenan Allen, but two hot-shot true freshman in Chris Harper and Byrce Treggs.

Isi Sofele is the featured back, but the emergence of Brendan Bigelow allows Cal’s running game to fill out into a more well-rounded running attack. Sofele has 219 yards so far for the season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Against the Trojans, expect Jeff Tedford to try and exploit the USC defense in the same way Stanford did, but running up the gut and right at the young defensive line, in hopes of getting T.J. McDonald to come up as a fourth linebacker and going over the top to Keenan Allen when opportunities arise.

USC’s defense was worn down against Stanford, as they struggled to contain the physicality of the Cardinal in the second half last week, despite shutting them down early on. This week, Cal offers a different challenge, as the Bears will try to go after USC’s weakness at the corner spot opposite of Nickel Robey. Look for Robey to be matched up with Keenan Allen in what should be a fantastic duel all game long, but that will open up Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs to target Torin Harris and Anthony Brown on the other side of the field.

If the Trojans can contain the big receivers and get to Zach Maynard like Ohio State did(they sacked him six times), then look for USC to control the game defensively. On the other hand, if Harris can’t wrangle in his men and if the defensive line gets pushed around like they were last week, Cal has faster weapons than Stanford, and it could be a long day for the Trojans.

For the full version of the USC vs. Cal game preview presented by Reign of Troy, click here.

Gameday links