USC-Cal: More Than Bragging Rights at Stake in Premier Pac-10 Showdown

David PachecoCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2009

LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 18:  C.J. Gable #25 of the University of Southern California Trojans is tackled by the California Golden Bears defense on November 18, 2006 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

This weekend the USC Trojans will travel to Berkeley to play the California Golden Bears. This game could determine who is going to compete for the Pac-10 title and have a shot at an automatic BCS bid.  

USC has dominated the Pac-10 over the last several years, winning the conference six years in a row since 2003, with as many BCS bowl game appearances and a national title.

The Trojans will attempt to continue their reign over this conference, and with a win they will increase the chance of continuing the streak of playing for an at-large bid.  

The Golden Bears have been competitive most years, but it has been some time since Cal has had the ability to say they have beaten the Men of Troy. The last time Cal beat USC was in 2003 in triple overtime, when the Trojans were ranked No. 3 in the polls. That game was in Berkeley, and even the fans on "Tightwad Hill" stuck around to watch.

Jahvid Best and the rest of the Golden Bears may be in the best position they have found themselves in for some time to be able to accomplish this, and depending on Best sticking around and not declaring for the draft, this may be his only shot. 

After Cal traveled to Eugene this weekend and was blown out by the Ducks 42-3, all of college football will be waiting to see how the Bears react against a team that most picked to once again win the Pac-10 Conference.   

California has a nine-game winning streak at home. The last loss at home for the Golden Bears came—you guessed it—at the hands of the Trojans in 2007. 

The Trojans are coming off a moderate win against Washington State 27-6. Coming into the game there were questions surrounding young Matt Barkley and the progress of his injured shoulder. Barkley was able to move the ball around with some success and showed some down the field ability with decent accuracy.

I can guarantee that all of the Trojan faithful were thrilled to see their golden boy back at the helm. 

The Trojan offense looked a bit more crisp and willing to take a couple of shots to attempt to open up the running game. With all the hype that Joe McKnight receives, Allen Bradford may be the Trojans' workhorse that Barkley and the offense need to once again become a formidable force.

Bradford may have his chance with the loss of Stafon Johnson for the year due to his weightlifting accident. Pete Carroll should utilize Allen Bradford in the red zone much like he uses Johnson. 

Both of these teams may be at a crossroads in their respective seasons, as early as it may be. The winner will be a contender for the Pac-10 title and the automatic bid, while the loser will be on the outside looking in when the picks are made and the bowl invitations are sent out.   

Regardless of the outcome, both teams are beginning and continuing to position themselves for long-term success.

USC is continuing the tradition of the Carroll era, where anything less than a legitimate run for a national title is considered a failed season.

The Golden Bears are showing that they can compete with the recruiting machine of USC and have the ability to make every game meaningful to them and their opponents. Look for this team to continue to improve and have every opponent they play realize that they need to circle the Golden Bears on the calendar as they prepare for the season. 

The Pac-10 is no longer the Pac-1. This conference is becoming a substantial force in the college football world, and with the possible emergence of Oregon, this may quickly become a three-headed monster. 

Big 12 and SEC, you have been put on notice.