In playwright (and Berkeley alum) Young Jean Lee's 2004 play "The Appeal," romantic poet William Wordsworth's sister Dorothy Wordsworth chastises her brother, calling him a "total and complete fucking moron." Well, I have no idea if USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has a sister or not, but I bet you there are a LOT of USC fans who wouldn't mind throwing a wig on to yell that at their head coach.
It's definitely been an up and down year for Seven-Win Sark. Big (seeming) win over Stanford at the start of the year. Then, get beaten up by BC. Beat Arizona. Lose to Utah. Who knows what USC team will show up tomorrow night at the Coliseum?
What I do know is that they'll most likely defeat us. I base this off of two factors: Cal hasn't beaten USC in a solid decade. It was so long ago that Cal beat USC that we had just sent combat troops to Iraq to defeat terrorism! The GOP had a majority in congress! A young Aaron Rodgers was teaching America to love again!
And we've never beaten Sarkisian. We lost to him every single time as a Washington head coach. 2009 blowout, 2010 last second loss, 2011 goal line stand, 2012 friday night loss, 2013 I don't even have to look this up to know we got blown out. In fact, a review of his Wikipedia shows that only time Cal has beaten a team that Sarkisian was coaching was when he was the QB coach in 2003.
So, basically, we stand no chance tomorrow night and I mean that in the most jinxiest way possible. To find out more about this USC team, we talked with Evan Budrovich over at Conquest Chronicles. His answers are after the jump (NOSTALGIA ALERT WE DON'T HAVE A JUMP ANYMORE!). Many thanks to Mr. Budrovich and his Eastern European awesomeness for these answers. GO BEARS!
1. How are you and the USC fans feeling about Coach Sark and his new system midway through his first season? How does that compare to the preseason feeling?
USC fans are growing a little tired of the lack of fourth-quarter execution, but everyone understands that the recruiting perks Sark has brought to the program will make him look real good in the next few years. When Sark first arrived, fans were skeptical about whether he could rid free of the "seven-win Sark" mantra that followed him at the University of Washington. That might actually happen this year, but the strides he has taken with Cody Kessler and Buck Allen have given fans optimism that he can develop talent. There are some fans that wish he shared the play-calling duties with Clay Helton, but I think that overall people are supportive.
2. The Trojan defense is 8th in the conference in passing yards allowed, but 3rd in points allowed. Does the team have what it takes to stop the Bear Raid offense and QB Jared Goff?
It does, it just may not be pretty. Thanks in large part to injuries that have plagued the secondary, USC is very thin in the back four. But much like the game plan against Oregon State and WSU, USC will try to create pressure up the middle to limit Goff's ability to beat them down the field. I do expect Goff to have his moments, but USC's defense has show an ability to limit the pass-first clubs. Now if Daniel Lasco can make plays in the running game, I will be concerned about USC's pass defense that would have to play more press coverage to stop those massive runs.
3. QB Cody Kessler is in the middle of a breakout year. He started playing better late last season, but were you expecting him to have this kind of season? Why do you think he's had this kind of progress?
Following the end of last season where Kessler threw just two interceptions in the final seven games, the writing was on the wall for a good season. Kessler does a great job making plays when things break down, an area Max Browne still struggles with an ultimately cost him the spot back in the Spring. In all honesty, Kessler is a solid quarterback who trusts his reads and delivers a tight spiral. He's not special with arm strength, mobility or awareness; he just does everything pretty well.
4. Sark suggested that a fast tempo would be a major part of the USC offense this season, but we've only seen intermittent bursts of uptempo play. Why is this?
Depth. The lack of depth on this roster has limited USC's ability to push the ball up and down the field. It would just be insane to be dominated in time of possession with an undermanned defense each and every week.
5. The sanctions have taken their toll on the USC depth. At which position(s) have they had the biggest impact?
Offensive line, where USC just recruited five scholarship players but are massively short otherwise. The secondary, especially at the cornerback position. I would also argue USC's very short on the defensive line and will continue to be undermanned, especially once Leonard Williams leaves for the NFL Draft after the season.
6. Will Agholor have over 150 yards against us or over 200 yards against us?
Agholor will have over 150 yards but under 200. Close but no cigar on the big 200. Actually though, he might have over 200 yards if you count punt return yards. Then again, I think Cal would be foolish to punt the ball within a country mile of Agholor.
7. Cal hasn't beaten USC in a solid decade. Is this year going to be any different than the last 10?
Cal will score more points, but USC will not be upset by a much-improved squad. I like what the Golden Bears have done this season, but the lack of skill in pass coverage will be to your detriment against a very capable Cody Kessler.
8. What player on the USC team that Cal fans perhaps do not know about should they know about?
Keep an eye out for Justin Davis, the explosive second year tailback. He played most of last season but coach Sark has found great ways to get him more involved in the offense this season. Davis does an excellent job bursting through the hole, and his overwhelming speed and quickness make him really tough to bring down.
9. Who do you want to punch in the face?
I want to punch, quite honestly (one of Sark's favorite terms), senior safety Josh Shaw. Not to throw gasoline on the fire, but the lies that Josh Shaw spread created a major media issue that has cast a black light on your career. More importantly, from an x's and o's standpoint, the Trojans could've really used Shaw on defense.