Vincent S: I think we finally win this year. Don't know why, other than it's time.
HydroTech: The only path to victory against USC is to do a lot of praying, and perhaps perform some sort of ritual sacrifice to the football gods. I propose sacrificing TwistNHook. In all seriousness, Cal won't be favored to win againstUSC. It will take a full and complete team effort to beat them in all phases of the game. Execute, win your positional battle, don't commit turnovers, score points, play solid defense, and pray to catch USC on an off day. All that stuff sounds pretty obvious, but year after year Cal fails to do one or more of those things and thus loses the game.
Nam Le: THIS THE YEAR BRUHS
Avinash: I read your preview Nam, pretty sure you have us losing to USC in best and worst case scenarios.
Nam: THIS IS NOT ANALYST NAM SPEAKING
Nick Kranz: Last year's USC game actually felt like a solid template for a streak breaking win. Your ingredients include: 1) Rampant USC conservatism 2) no big USC offensive plays 3) Cal offense that consistently moves the ball 4) No special play miscues. Ahh, but of course, we missed the one key detail - Cal's 3 turnovers (one returned for a touchdown) vs. USC's zero turnovers. Cal never ever ever wins the turnover battle against USC.
Seriously, Cal was better than USC on a play-by-play basis last year. And still lost, and then Jared Goff declared early, and we're playing USC on the road this year, which makes USC favorites again. But the fact that Cal should have beaten USC last year is perhaps a mild reason for optimism, even when remembering that Cal has had significant personnel turnover between 2015 and 2016.
The sheer odds of a 12 game losing streak are frustrating. If we assumed that, on average, USC was the heavy favorite in every game - let's say, 5-1 odds - then you would expect Cal to have won 2 games in that time span. Never mind that USC probably hasn't been such a heavy favorite on average. Some day Cal will finally get a little luck against USC, or simply have the better team. I'm not particularly convinced that's the case this year.
Avinash: I have no optimism. It's a Thursday night game on the road on five days rest against a USC team on a week and a half of rest. Cal is 0-4 in Thursday night games this decade, and none of the games were particularly close.
The template to victory is replicating what Washington did last year against USC; control the clock, control the football, win first down constantly and regularly, and hope the elite Trojans offense shoots themselves in the foot enough to get the win. I don't see Cal passing its way to victory against USC; we've tried that three years in a row with our greatest signal-caller ever, and we just went home with three more Ls.
How much does losing to USC sap your soul?
boomtho: No, I don't see a realistic path to victory. It's a short-rest game and we have a severe athleticism/talent deficiency with our D vs their O. I expect them to grind us into oblivion behind a talented OL.
Andy Johnston: Meh, at this point I look at a USC road game as an auto lose. I have no reason to expect anything else. And yes, while you read this and say surely I am the biggest Cal cynic, I literally have no historical evidence to expect any other result (goes into closet and cries). As for our path to victory, I think we can take advantage of their defense specifically and put a solid number on the scoreboard. The issue is always how our offensive line can hold up against their athletic and lengthy defensive line. If we can keep Davis Webb upright, we might have a shot to beat the Trojans.
Nik Jam: Right now it's hard to imagine this as a likely win or even a coin toss for the Bears. USC has been trouble for a long time (no duh, me) and although last year was close, we've played worse in LA. It's on six days rest, but maybe Cal will be feeling a high from a hopeful solid effort against Oregon and it can carry over into the Thursday game.