Should We Show Up In A Trojan Horse and See if That Works? Cal vs. USC Roundtable

Will USC's Robert Woods victimize Marc Anthony and the Cal secondary this year?

On September 27, 2003, Tyler Frederickson kicked a 38-yard field goal in the third overtime to cap Cal's improbable 34-31 victory over then-3rd ranked (and eventual split national champion) USC at Memorial Stadium. It was bedlam in Berkeley. It was the signature win of Coach Tedford's head coaching career, which was then still only in its infancy. It was one of the greatest wins in Cal football history.

Nine long years later, it is also the last time Cal defeated the Trojans. Since Frederickson's dagger split the uprights on that late September evening, Cal has gone 0-8 against USC. Oh and eight. That's zero wins. And eight losses. Some of those have been painfully close (2004) or competitive until the fourth quarter (2006, 2007, 2008), while others have been downright beatdowns (2005, 2009, 2010). But no matter how you slice it, USC has simply owned Cal over the last eight meetings. Will this year's renewal of the Cal-USC series be any different?

Your CGB writers and mods sit around the virtual round table and give their thoughts.

TwistNHook: So, we jump from @Ohio State to @USC. That should be a fun two weeks. But, man, if we can win them both, it'd be like a rocket propelled starship to planet awesome.

Hydro Tech: I'm hoping that we can keep the game competitive. What scares me the most though is facing USC's quarterback, Matt Barkley. He is a pretty good quarterback. Last year his completion rate was a stellar 69.1%. We will need to get pressure on him so he can't slice and dice the defense. Of course, getting all crazy and going balls to the wall on blitzes is pretty risky when you're also facing Robert Woods, one of the better WRs in the nation. I think Cal is, unfortunately, in a tough situation (as is pretty much every team which plays USC). It's often hard to pressure the QB without bringing more pass rushers, but bringing more pass rushers leaves you more susceptible to completions down-field.

And don't even get me started on what the Cal offense needs to do ... I'm just hoping we can score some touchdowns.

(What do the other CGB fearless leaders think? Find out after the jump.)

Ohio Bear: I have no reason to believe we will win this game.

atomsareenough: This one will be tough. I think it's certainly possible that we can win, but it's not looking bloody likely. I'm probably one of the bigger optimists on CGB, but after 8 years of futility it's hard to think that okay, this is the year. Maybe it will be, but USC is looking like a top 5 team again, and if we didn't even come close to beating them when they were "down" (relatively speaking), are we going to be able to stop them now? I dunno. I'm not going to hold my breath. Anyway, I just really don't want to see another rout at the hands of the Trojans. Please. I hope we keep it respectable. That's progress as far as I'm concerned. Maybe we can beat them next year.

Berkelium97: We will need an Aaron Rodgers-esque performance out of Zach Maynard to have a chance at the upset.

Defensively, I cannot see this going well. Sure, Pendergast stifled the USC defense last season, but the wounds of that 2010 trip to the Coliseum are still fresh. They have the best QB in the nation, the best receiving tandem in the nation, and (if they steal Silas Redd) one of the best backfields in the nation.

DOOOOOOOM.

Avinash: If the game was played today, Cal would probably be projected as three to four tochdown underdogs. Do you think we could cover the spread?

Ohio Bear: Unlikely.

ragnarok: It could be worse -- ASU is a four touchdown dog at USC, and Colorado is given more than 5 TDs.

While I'm not at all optimistic about Cal winning this game, I really think we can keep it closer than 3 TDs.

Berkelium97: Silas Redd just transferred to SC. Want to tack on another TD to that point spread?

Game over, man! GAME OVER!

atomsareenough: Meh. There's still only 1 football that can be carried, passed, or shoveled on any particular play. So if Redd carries the football, that just means Woods, Lee, or McNeal doesn't get the ball on that play. Now, look, I'm not going to pretend this doesn't help them. Quality depth will enable them to win more games over the course of the season, surely. But their entire roster is made up of 4- and 5-star talents, so I don't see how one more talented backup is going to necessarily add to the margin all by himself. So, Silas Redd will potentially displace high school US Army All-American DJ Morgan. Good for them.

solarise: I am going to stick my head in the sand and pretend that convo never happened. McCain & Whiteside will lay some smacks on Barkley! Anthony & Williams will blanket Woods & Lee! MoalaBear will inhale Silas Redd like Kara's Cupcake!!!

Avinash: Well, USC is not impregnable. They have two big weaknesses that I see going into this season. The first is who ends up replacing Matt Kalil on the blind side. USC is relying on Aundrey Walker, who is massive but probably not as mobile. USC's offensive line has NFL prospects everywhere, but they probably don't have elite tackles. Does Cal have a pass rusher that could take advantage of that matchup?

The other big weakness is depth. Devon Kennard going down for the season pretty much leaves USC having to work with one of many talented but very inexperienced defensive ends on the other side. And this is true at almost every position; the Trojans are not deep anywhere. If they started getting injured, they are very vulnerable.

USC might be a better team, but would you consider Cal a deeper team?

Berkelium97: I didn't want to talk about it, but Twist DEMANDS that we include some stats here. I advise women, children, and the squeamish to look away.

Barring unforseen, catastrophic, and widespread injuries, USC's offense is going to be unstoppable this season. Matt Barkley has gotten better and better each year. Last year he completed nearly 70% of his passes and posted the 8th-highest passer efficiency rating in the nation (161.2). He takes great care of the ball and only had seven interceptions all season. His 7.9 yards per pass attempt is great but not spectacular (still good for top-30 nationwide). He won't torch us with home run passes, but he will steadily pick up yardage en route to the end zone. His receivers aren't too shabby either: Robert Woods and Marqise Lee combined for 26TDs and over 2400 receiving yards last season. They also have a solid stable of tight ends who caught 9 TDs last season.

One of the biggest USC weaknesses heading into this season was depth at running back...until Silas Redd transferred to the Trojans. Once USC settled on Curtis McNeal as their primary running back he broke out and had a stellar season. He piled up 1005 yards on a fantastic 6.93 yards per carry. Redd wasn't bad either, posting 1241 yards on a solid 5.09 ypc.

The USC backfield is bolstered by an excellent O-line that only lost one starter from last season. They paved the way for USC to average 4.98 yards per carry, 21st in the nation. They also only allowed 8 sacks all year, best in the nation.

There is a very good reason why USC was in "great shape" in EVERY SINGLE ONE of Ted Miller's preseason position rankings on offense.

LeonPowe: I am afraid.

How bad has this series been for Cal lately? This play is a Cal highlight of the last four meetings.

Ohio Bear: Twist wants stats? All right.

2005 USC 35, Cal 10
2006 USC 23, Cal 9
2007 USC 24, Cal 17
2008 USC 17, Cal 3
2009 USC 30, Cal 3
2010 USC 48, Cal 14
2011 USC 30, Cal 9

That enough stats?

Avinash: Alright, y'all are getting a little too morbid. Average teams have beaten good USC squads before.

What's to path to scoring an upset for the ages?

LeonPowe: Chipotle?

What's Reggie Robertson doing right now?

Berkelium97: Last year we shut down Robert Woods and Marqise Lee with some solid play from our DBs. Matt Barkley did not have anywhere to throw and had, by far, his worst performance of the season. Curtis McNeal was mostly held in check as we held USC to its second-lowest yards-per-carry of the year (fun fact: Minnesota held them to 2.39 ypc). We've shown we have the defense to beat them. But we absolutely, positively, undeniably cannot turn the ball over 5 times again if we want to keep this game competitive.

Fortunately the USC defense is not that great. Their rushing defense is solid (as Sofele found out last season), but their passing defense is the weak link. They were 102nd in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (263.3). Remember how Zach Maynard had 294 against them? And this was the struggling, first-half-of-last-season Maynard! If we are going to beat them, it will be in the hands on Maynard and Allen.

It's possible. Unlikely, but certainly possible. If the turnover margin tilts in our favor, I can see this being a competitive game.

Avinash: Yeah, I don't know why people forget about those turnovers. We gifted USC 13 points and probably gave up 3 or 7 points at the end of halftime. That's almost a three touchdown swing, and guess how much we lost by!

TwistNHook: 1,000,000 points?????

unclesam22: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.

If we can win the turnover battle, get a big play or two on offense, make a good special teams play (either a punt return or huge FG or a block) and then play stellar defense, we can score the upset. So in other words, play a flawless game and have a few huge momentum plays go our way. It is far fetched for sure, but not entirely outside of the realm of possibilities. But the turnover margin is by far the key.

solarise: I think it all comes down to the old adage of putting pressure on the QB. If we don't give Matt Barkley time to make decisions in the pocket, good things will happen. The return of Cecil Whiteside and the addition of Khairi Fortt have to be welcoming news for Coach P. He will need all our depth to challenge a $C line without Matt Kalil this season. Limit the time $C offense has on the field, give Maynard and the Cal offense plenty of opportunities to do work, plus positive turnover margins, and we should get our chance to Mike Tyson the preseason consensus #1 Trojans.

TwistNHook: Score predictions?

Berkelium97: USC 105, Cal 0

Ohio Bear: USC 48, Cal 20

solarise: 34-31 Cal in triple OT

LeonPowe: I like where solarise's head is at.


Thought I'd give y'all a happy memory.

atomsareenough: 34-27 Trojans. blahhhhhh

unclesam22: 35-16 U$C.

Kodiak: 24-21 Cal. Our main kicker gets a leg cramp, so Richard Rodgers has to step in and hit a clutch field goal. The first attempt is good, and called back due to a penalty. The 2nd hits the uprights...and rolls through.

Traveler is sold to the glue factory. They turn the lights and scoreboard in the Coliseum off early as Cal fans revel long into the night.

For this mildly mind-blowing exercise in JuJu to occur, Cal has to win the trenches. Keep Maynard's jersey clean while pounding 'sc with a consistent run game. No fatal special teams errors. Make their offense one-dimensional by containing the run and shutting down their play-action game. Keep Barkley frustrated due to pressure. Easier said than done.

Vincent S: 35-28. Cal puts up a valiant effort, but USC makes several timely plays (TE over the middle, Silas Redd breaking free, etc.). It's close until late, when Matt Barkley hooks up with Robert Woods for game-winning touchdown. Sorry guys, I just don't think we can do it this year without some serious breaks our way (think a +3 turnover margin).

ragnarok: USC 27, Cal 15. The Bears haven't scored more than 17 against 'SC since, uh, '03? and I don't see that changing this year. But we keep it close until a late TD puts the game out of reach.

So what do you think, CGB readers? Does Cal finally get off the schneid against the Trojans? Or do Barkley & Co. hammer the Bears again? Tell us in the comments.

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