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Cal football opponent preview: USC Gamefilm and Notes

Video clips of USC, commentary and a crowdsource question.

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Real life has prevented me from devoting the time that I wanted to spend looking at USC game film.  I wish it was something like watching the Cubs in the World Series but in truth it has just been an exhausting week of work (with more this weekend!).  I do want to show some of what to expect from USC, but it will not be as long winded as I have a tendency to be.

USC under Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin ran an offense that force fed the ball to a playmaker or two.  After a couple games coached by Clay Helton we see that throwing to the enigmatic #9 JuJu Smith-Schuster is still a big part of the game plan.

Smith-Schuster was targeted against both Notre Dame and Utah with long passes and short passes like this one above which was designed to get him the ball in space.

The change Coach Helton has brought is the utilization of #2 Adoree Jackson.  Perhaps the best athlete on a team of elite athletes, Jackson started the year as a cornerback.  He played some snaps against Notre Dame on offense, like this screen pass below.

But against Utah he played as a regular on offense, defense and special teams.  Expect to see a lot of him on Saturday.

USC has increased the number of carries to freshman Ronald Jones II who earlier this year missed practice because of his obsession with burgers.

I would not be surprised to see Jones II getting the plurality of the carries by the end of the season.

Clay Helton seems to have one trick play up his sleeve and he is not afraid to use it...

Again and again...

That is the 3rd quarterback on the depth chart and red shirt freshman wide receiver #10 Jalen Green throwing the ball.  I can see why he is playing receiver now...

With all this offensive firepower, it was actually the play of freshman linebacker #35 Cameron Smith that led to Utah's annihilation.

Smith was the invisible man as Travis Wilson kept trying to throw the ball through him.



I need your help here, I have a theory that USC's quarterbacks put up gaudy numbers and receive all sorts of hype because of the receivers they threw to.  I mean Matt Barkley better have set records after 4 years of throwing to Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor.  To start investigating my theory I put together a list of USC's passing leaders with NCAA completion percentage, NCAA quarterback rating and NFL quarterback rating.

NCAA and NFL QB rating are calculated differently and are therefore not directly comparable.

Passer rating in the NFL is on a scale from 0 to 158.3. Passing efficiency in college football is on a scale from -731.6 to 1261.6.

I chose completion percentage because:

two college statistics adequately predict future NFL performance: games started and completion percentage. In fact, where a quarterback is selected in the draft has virtually no bearing on his NFL success. Games started and completion percentage are far better than the scouts at determining how good a player will be.

So here are the quarterbacks for SC ranked by career yards:

We need something to compare to to evaluate how good those NFL stats are, here are some well known Pac-12 QBs:

And here is the leader list for your Golden Bears (I know there is an important player missing from the top of the list):

It is interesting to see the numbers from quarterbacks of different eras.  The quarterbacks of the 1970s and 1980s played to a different standard, I guess the game really was different back then.

So what do you make of these stats?  Is there a trend or just noise?  In any event, Cody Kessler and Jared Goff are going to be compared at the end of the season and I wanted to have some historical perspective when listening to the rhetoric.