When the USC Trojans routed the California Golden Bears 62-28 on Saturday afternoon, they proved two things: first, that they are a much more complete team now than at the beginning of the 2013 season and second—and most importantly—that they could contend with Stanford next week.
Over the past two weeks, the Trojans have played extremely well. Despite injuries that have hindered them a bit this season, backup players like J.R. Tavai and Javorius "Buck" Allen have filled in for veterans seamlessly. The pieces finally appear to be coming together for interim head coach Ed Orgeron in Week 11, and with each win, he makes former head coach Lane Kiffin look all the more incompetent.
Take Allen, for example. Under Kiffin, Allen may as well not even have existed because he was so far down the depth chart. In the past two games, he's had 22 carries for 268 yards and five touchdowns. Before that, he showed streaks of brilliance—that he could do damage for the Trojans if they only fed him the rock.
He certainly has delivered.
Then there's Soma Vainuku, the fullback that could not be relied upon to catch a pass in 2012. In just one season, he has really grown as a player, showing that not only does he have hands this season, but he can also lay a mean block on special teams coverage.
At Cal, Vainuku blocked a punt that cornerback Josh Shaw scooped up and trotted 14 yards into the endzone for a USC touchdown. Vainuku's newfound killer instincts produced a big play for the Trojans, something we hadn't seen from them in quite some time.
But it wasn't just the blocked punt.
Nelson Agholor returned two punts for touchdowns, and Allen broke off 43-, 57- and 79-yard touchdown runs. These big plays got USC on the board quickly and kept them firmly in the lead as the afternoon wore on.
With Cal now in the rearview mirror, Coach Orgeron—who now boasts a 4-0 record in Pac-12 play since he took over—and his staff will focus all their attention on their impending tilt with Stanford. A few weeks ago, this game looked like a definite loss for the Trojans, but now, USC looks like it will stand a chance.
Recently, we have seen the Trojans dial up big plays on the road, which bodes well for what they should be able to do in the Coliseum. We've seen a 71-yard play-action bomb from Cody Kessler to Marqise Lee at Reser Stadium to everything Allen has done, plays that absolutely had a hand in USC escaping Corvallis and Strawberry Canyon unscathed.
With its huge win over Cal, USC has now tamed the Golden Bears 10 straight times. USC hasn't hung 60 on an opponent since Washington State in 2008. The Trojans will certainly be returning home with lots of confidence as they prepare for what now looks to be another thrilling clash between USC and its bitter Pac-12 North rivals, the Stanford Cardinal.