- Garry Paskwietz, Publisher, WeAreSC.com
Each week we will take a look at five important storylines heading into Saturday's game. Here are some things to watch for as the Trojans return home to face the Bears.
Two losses, different results: Both the Trojans and Bears lost last weekend, but the results came with markedly different reactions. USC was down after suffering a physical loss on the road to Stanford, but Cal was optimistic that the shootout loss in the Horseshoe to Ohio State was a sign of good things to come. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond this weekend.
USC O-line vs Cal 3-4 front: This is the scheme matchup that caused all sorts of issues last week for the Trojans against Stanford. Granted, the Cal defense isn’t expected to be as strong as the Cardinal's, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy either. Both teams are hoping for good injury news from key players; USC center Khaled Holmes and Cal defensive end Mustafa Jalil have each been banged up lately.
Pressure on Barkley: One of the keys for Stanford last week was the pressure it got on Matt Barkley with four sacks. That interrupted the USC passing game, particularly the ability to get the ball in the hands of big-play receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The Trojans only gained 114 yards after the catch against Stanford, the lowest total they have gained in all but one of the last 14 games.
Contain Cal explosive plays: USC isn’t the only team with playmakers in this game. Cal receiver Keenan Allen is as good of a receiver as you will find in the conference not named Woods or Lee. The Bears also have a pair of talented freshman receivers in Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper. Isi Sofele is the workhorse of the Cal run game but former USC recruit Brendan Bigelow is a speedster who gained 160 yards on four carries with two touchdowns last week.
Home cooking: It’s time for the Trojans to come home to the Coliseum. After what happened last week, it will be a much-needed boost for them to run down the tunnel and hear the roar of the home crowd showing its support. A near sell-out crowd is expected.