USC Trojans vs. California Bears: Complete Game Preview
USC is feeling pretty good about itself after its 31-14 victory at Oregon State last Friday night. The Trojans travel for the second week in a row when they visit Cal on Saturday.
Riding the nation's No. 12 defense, USC also found some offense in Oregon, as the 31 points it scored came via a nice blend of passing and running versus the Beavers.
Now 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, the Trojans will look to go to 7-3 as they seek to become relevant again after the firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin earlier in the season.
This slideshow will look at some of the pertinent facts surrounding this game and highlight the important players on both teams.
Let's take a closer look at a game the Trojans simply have to win.
When: Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon PT
Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
TV: Fox Television Station
Los Angeles Radio: KSPN
Spread: USC (-17) per Thespread.com
Last Meeting: Sept. 22, 2012; Los Angeles, Calif.
Last Outcome: USC 27 Cal 9
Bears' Key to Victory
There is a reason why Cal is still looking for its first conference victory and sporting a horrible 1-8 record in 2013.
It starts with a woeful defense that is ranked 122nd in the nation in total defense, and the bad news for the Bears is that they are inept against both the rush and the pass.
However, the Bears are not awful on offense. Their 34th national ranking in total offense means that if they hope to win this game, they will have to try to outscore the Trojans through the air.
For Cal to win, freshman Jared Goff, who leads the nation's eighth ranked passing offense, will have to play the game of his young life.
Unfortunately for Goff, that doesn't seem likely with the way USC is playing defense right now. Cal's best chance for victory is to hope that USC is flat after last week's win over the Beavers.
Trojans' Key to Victory
You want the Trojans' key to victory in this game?
Seriously though, the key to winning for USC is simply to protect the ball and exploit Cal's woeful defense.
If that doesn't work, USC can always turn to the pass where the Trojans' 81st-ranked offense seems pitiful until you match it up against Cal's 123rd-ranked pass defense. Yes, that is the nation's worst.
Like I said, just get there safely, USC.
California Player to Watch
Though only a true freshman, Bears quarterback Jared Goff has shown that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
At 6'4", Goff is blessed with a cannon for an arm and he has thrived in head coach Sonny Dykes' offense, throwing for almost 2,900 yards and 14 touchdowns, including tossing four TDs in Cal's close loss to Arizona on Saturday.
However, Goff is also subject to making mistakes, as evidenced by his nine interceptions,. He also has a propensity to take sacks, which does not bode well against a Trojans front seven that gets routine penetration.
USC Player to Watch
Just like Cal, the player to watch for USC is also a quarterback. His name, of course, is Cody Kessler.
Kessler has improved each time out since the first third of the season and has thrown for almost 2,000 yards to complement the Trojans' potent running game.
Keep an eye on Kessler operating against the nation's worst secondary, as he looks to exploit the weakest link in the Bears defense.
What They're Saying
USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron on his team's philosophy going into the Cal game:
I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in. Beat Cal. Fight On!
Cal linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. after Cal's loss to Arizona:
We are looking forward to practice Monday, and getting after it and ready for USC.
USC All-American wide receiver Marqise Lee after the Trojans' win at Oregon State:
This game went out to all those sc players in 2008/2009 we always got y'all backs.
After USC's inspiring victory at Oregon State, the primary job of interim head coach Ed Orgeron is to guard against a letdown on the road at Cal.
The Bears will come out playing hard in front of their home crowd. In an otherwise forgettable season, they would like nothing better than to pull off the upset of the Trojans.
With a win, USC would improve to 7-3 and, at a minimum, hold on to some portion of second place in the Pac-12 South Division.
On paper, this looks like a game that USC should win easily, but that is not where they play the game, so the Trojans need to prove it on the field.