TwistNHook: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES???
Could this be the year? Could this be the year, we finally break through. For all of our ups and all of our downs, we've played USC really hard. Only in 2005, during the Era of Ayoob, did we get crushed. All the other years, Cal is right in it. In 2006 and 2008, USC pulled away late to make it look not as close as it really was. But even in that rough 2007 year, we were right in it up until....wait for it....wait for it, stunningly, a late 4th quarter Longshore interception. Did not see *that* one coming?
So, what are your guys thoughts? Can Cal beat USC? Or will Taylor "I crush the dreams of babies on a daily basis" Mays be enough to play every position on the field????
Avinash: Let's go over this point: It's not a "miracle" for Cal to beat USC. This isn't 2003 anymore. We are not huge underdogs and haven't played like huge underdogs. We've played the Trojans like equals, USC has just managed to outlast us each time.
The Bears have played the Trojans tightly in four of their five previous matchups; USC has been slightly better than us each time we've faced them. They've won the 4th quarter both ways, by getting the big stops and/or putting the points on the board. Good for them.
But if we beat USC this season, it's not a monumental upset, like Oregon State playing perfect football and the Trojans playing like dogs, or the Furd with their dorky voodoo. We will have to be the better team to pull it out. USC is not going to sleep on us. They will hit us hard and we'll have to swing back.
TwistNHook: If it is not going to be a miracle for Cal to beat USC, why do you keep praying upon Danzig, the Patron Saint of Awesomeness? He will grant us a miracle this year!
Avinash: One of the most fearsome matchups will be USC's ridiculously experienced offensive line that should steady Aaron Corp's hand. Three seniors, one junior. I'd say they have a good chance to be as good as Cal 2007 in terms of pass protection.
The 3-4 gave them problems last year, but our best pass rusher is now gone. Not to mention the running back corps (Gable, Johnson and McKnight, along with Havili and his annoying fullback wheel route) all return a year older and stronger.
So where beating USC last season depending on scoring on their defense, this year it probably means stopping their offense. Which means taking apart the Trojan offensive line. What will be the key to beating USC's O-line?
TwistNHook: If we are sticking with the 3-4 this year, then it would seem to me that the key is our linebacker play. So, it is up to Young, Bishop, Kendricks, Holt, guys like that to make the key stop. It sounds like our DLine will have its hands full with their OLine!
But what about their D? Sounds as powerful as ever. Especially with All-Galaxy Taylor Mays making baby Jesus cry every Saturday. There are a few positions still up in the air. The LA Times has some info:
Nose tackle -- Sophomore Jurrell Casey and junior Christian Tupou are battling for the starting job, but both will play a lot. Senior Averell Spicer, who lost the starting job last season after committing two costly penalties in the loss at Oregon State, is atop the depth chart at the other tackle spot. Junior college transfer Hebron Fangupo could figure in at both positions.
Strong safety -- Sixth-year senior Josh Pinkard and fifth-year senior Will Harris will compete to start alongside All-American free safety Taylor Mays. The savvy Pinkard has started at safety and cornerback. Harris proved his value last season by playing very well in place of injured Kevin Ellison.
Avinash: The Trojan defense is not going to be as strong as it was last year. That was one of the greatest defenses ever to suit up on a college football field, and they would've gotten their due had they not tripped up in Beaver Land. They lost seven starters. You don't stay the same losing seven starters.
As good as U$C's OL may be, you can't help but wonder if perhaps it won't matter if Corp doesn't pan out. AT LEAST ONE U$C QB HAS TO SUCK, RIGHT?!?!?! RIGHT??? A bit more seriously now, Corp is what? A red-shirt sophomore with a total of 4 pass attempts in his career. I mean, this guy truly lacks experience. And despite being like the #1 rated QB or something a couple of years ago, and behind the Great Wall of China U$C offensive line, the dude still has to be able to make his reads and throws. Every great football program has some QB duds. Corp could be U$C's dud. You never know. Or he might light up the Pac-10 with a brightness unknown to Pac-10 defenses and win the Heisman or something in typical U$C fashion.
Btw, I totes found myself in Las Vegas not too long ago and I think I saw 100,000 people there wearing U$C gear and 2 people wearing Cal gear.
TwistNHook: How many people were wearing Washington State gear?
Well, now Corp is out for the next 1-2 weeks. Do you think that'll have any noticeable impact on this team or not really?
HydroTech: Probably not. Corp will be back before the seasons starts and he'll get reps with the first team prior to their first game. I see his injury having little impact on the team. If the team were a less talented team, I could definitely see a starting QB's injury having more of an impact. But when a team as talented as U$C loses their starting QB for a few weeks during fall camp, I don't see it impacting them that much.
Avinash: What would be the best strategy for Cal to expose USC this season?
TwistNHook: Are you getting paid by Big Bold per bolding or something? Why are you always bolding stuff???
Yellow Fever: Back to Corp for a second, I just wonder if this pushes up the timetable for Matt Barkley at all. Everyone's been saying how impressive he is, and his stated goal is to be the starter by the end of the year. So even if Corp's injury does linger for a while, it might not have the effect on the team as a whole that we think it will.
TwistNHook: Heres some more injury news on USC:
With all eyes on the USC quarterback race while starter Aaron Corp rests his ailing leg, the Trojans got more bad news at their scrimmage Monday night at the Coliseum. Southern Cal starting center Kristofer O'Dowd, the team's best offensive lineman, went down on the first drive and needed to be helped off the field.
Their best OLineman, Kris O'Dowd, went down in practice. For right now, not too much is known, but he had to be helped off the field. Of course, their backup is a senior, so they have depth. But we all know that the key to any team's success, including USC, is their OLine. So, keep an eye on how this turns out.
Anyway, Anybody else think the 2004 National Championship trophy falling from its perch is a delightful omen for USC disaster in the coming year? I can't the only one who thinks a glass object falling can affect hundreds and hundreds of plays over the course of months, right? Right??
Ragnarok: Well, superstition aside, I think there's very good reason to think that Cal can win this game. For one thing, the 2009 edition of the Bears will almost certainly be the best team USC has faced in Berkeley since about, oh, 1991. The 2004 and 2006 teams were both great, but both had to play the Trojans on the road. The last 3 teams to travel down to the Coliseum? A combined 29-9 record, 2 Holiday Bowl berths, and a share of a Pac-10 title. All three played USC close, but all three ultimately fell short. On the flip side, however, the last three Bears teams to face USC at home had a combined record of just 23-16, going on to win the slightly less-prestigious Insight, Las Vegas, and Armed Forces Bowls. Getting the Trojans at home without the handicap of either a) Joe Ayoob, or b) an injured Nate Longshore should portend great things for our Bears.
Yellow Fever: I'm just happy to find out that both Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel think college 40 times are a load of shit. It's reassuring to know that Taylor Mays is not, in fact, faster than Usain Bolt.
Avinash: Depending on how the Trojans perform against Ohio State, it wouldn't be that much of a shocker to see the Bears favored against USC assuming (and that's a BIG assumption) Cal starts the season 4-0. Even so, the line would be very close I expect. That opening season line makes me believe Vegas takes Cal very seriously this season.
TwistNHook: So, then, how do you see this ending up? Cal 17-14. Can I believe??
CRYSTAL FOOTBALL STRIKES AGAIN:
USC's first-team defensive end Armond Armstead broke a bone in his foot Thursday morning and will be out six weeks, according to the school.
Armstead, a talented 6-foot-5, 295-pound sophomore, will have surgery on Friday. He broke his fifth metatarsal (outer most bone) in his left foot when someone stepped on it during practice.
Yellow Fever: I'll be honest, I've never heard of this guy until now. But I guess that's not surprising since I can't name anyone on their defense except Taylor Mays, and they end up fielding a top five defense every year anyway. I assume they have another five star recruit lined up behind this guy on the depth chart anyway.
TwistNHook: Interestingly enough, the articles notes this:
Wes Horton and Nick Perry, both redshirt freshmen, will compete to replace Armstead, who had been playing very well since spring practices.
So, they have redshirt freshmen. Doesn't mean they weren't 5 star All-World recruits redshirt freshmen. But they are still redshirt freshmen.
HydroTech: USC has such a stockpile of talent that they can lose guys to injuries and still be very dominant. Unless we start getting reports that their entire first team offense and defense is getting injured, AND their second team offense and defense are getting injured, then perhaps I'll start getting optimistic.
One interesting question this year, is whether USC will continue their runningback by committee thing. Are they ever going to have a #1 guy? Or are they going to stick with running three different guys during the game? Ironically, despite many Cal fans saying Tedford should mimic whatever Pete Carrol does (because if Petey does it then that's the right way to do it and Tedford is an idiot for not doing like Petey), Cal fans haven't really been clamoring to adopt the whole runningback by committee approach.
Ragnarok: Well, Cal has done very well with its runningback tandems in the past, and frankly, it's the one position where there hasn't really been anything to complain about. USC does it their way, we do it ours, and it works for both of us.
If history is any guide, I expect this game to be a low-scoring, defensive struggle. Over the last 5 years or so, Cal's defense has (mostly) been able to stifle the Trojans' offense in a way few other teams have, holding them to 23, 35 (ayoob year), 23, 24, and 17 points. Other than 2005, every game was close, and every game was withing Cal's reach in the 4th quarter. Problem is, as good as Cal's defense has been, the Trojan's defense (combined with some offensive ineptitude on the Bears' part) has been better. Over those same five games, Cal scored 17, 10, 9, 17, and 3 points. 3! I really think the key to this game will be whether Cal can finally muster 20+ points vs. a green (but still very talented) Trojan defense.
Avinash: I don't make many predictions. I will today. Cal is going to beat USC.
Yellow Fever: I don't think there's much doubt that the key to the game is going to be whether Riley can muster up enough of a passing game to let Best average at least two yards a carry. But then, that's basically the case for the whole season, isn't it?
I do think USC is more vulnerable this year than they have been in a while. Between losing eight of eleven defensive starters and breaking in a new QB, and with Cal having the consensus best RB in the country, it's tough not to point to this game as one that Cal should win. Then again, the QB train over at USC never seems to stop, so I'm still not going to get my hopes up.