September 15, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) passes the ball against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
1. Cal took then-No. 12 Ohio State to the wire last weekend, before which many thought this team wouldn't be able to contend in the Pac-12. Did that game change your view of how good this team really is?
Kodiak: Most of us expected to be blown out at tOSU after the woeful showing against Nevada. Too small of a data set yet, but it was certainly more promising to lose a close one that appeared winnable than to be taken behind the woodshed. As good Cal fans, we know better than to get overly optimistic.
OhioBear: Yes, I suppose it does, but it changes it back to what I thought before. To paraphrase Dennis Green, we are what I thought we were. After the first two games, I thought this team was much worse than I thought. The performances against Nevada and Southern Utah were uninspiring and mistake-filled. Against Ohio State, Cal played much better and were competitive against a highly talented team, but just fell short. I thought that's what Cal could be before the season started, so I suppose that means I'm back to where I started on my view of how good we are.
NorCalNick: It changed our view on what the team is capable of, but I don't think anybody really knows how good they truly are. I want to believe that they will continue to play as good (or better!) than they did in the Horseshoe, but it's just as likely that they regress back to a level between the Ohio St. performance and the Nevada performance.
2. Jeff Tedford said senior quarterback Zach Maynard has really improved from last year. What is he doing differently that is allowing him to be so successful through three games thus far?
Kodiak: Not throwing it to anyone named McDonald, thus far. Better footwork has helped his accuracy. He seems comfortable and poised despite often being pressured due to our Oline woes.
OhioBear: Well there's a loaded question. Many Cal fans will say reflexively that he's not doing anything different and that he hasn't been successful through three games, no matter what his statistics might say. But in my honest opinion, that view is unfair. Maynard still inconsistent in the accuracy department, but I think he has improved slightly in that regard. It also appears (to my untrained eye) that Maynard is better at going through his progressions and throwing the ball on time.
NorCalNick: Being more comfortable with the playbook likely has something to do with it, but I think a big difference so far as just been his accuracy and basic decision making. Significantly fewer throws are sailing in the wrong direction, and significantly fewer throws are going into dangerous coverages.
3. The Golden Bears still have All-American wide receiver Keenan Allen and tailback Isi Sofele from a year ago. Who else on offense can give the Trojans' defense fits?
OhioBear: Brendan Bigelow might. He had a breakout game last Saturday against Ohio State and could see more touches. He gives the Bears a dynamic quality from the running back position that neither Sofele nor C.J. Anderson has. At the WR position, perhaps Chris Harper. He's a true freshman, but has shown ability to run good routes and seems to be a guy that Maynard looks for. If USC is intent on stopping Allen, Harper might be a guy who Maynard will find open on a consistent basis.
4. Cal's secondary was supposedly a weakness coming into the season, but they held its own against Ohio State. Is there a player or two on that side of the ball that can neutralize and/or slow down the big play from USC's explosive receivers?
NorCalNick: We were all terrified of what USC's receivers would do to Cal last year, but in the end Cal's secondary was arguably the lone bright spot on the day, so I guess the Bears have hope. But true freshman Stefan McClure was a big part of what went right last year, and he's out injured.
Kodiak: Marc Anthony has been our best one on one cover corner. Besides that, do whatever it takes to start Woods/Lee on your fantasy team.
OhioBear: If it's anyone, it will be Steve Williams. He is, IMO, Cal's best cover corner and is a good open field tackler who can minimize YAC.
5. Will anyone be watching for the tight ends?
Kodiak: The what now?
OhioBear: Yeah, I will be watching them. Watching them run free.
NorCalNick: Never. We Bears have a deep respect for tradition, both before, during and after the game.
6. What are your predictions for the game? (This could cover anything, not just the final result).
Kodiak: One team will be happy. The other will be sad. Both of us will still hate Stanford.
OhioBear: USC will win. My kids will ask me why daddy keeps having his face in his hands like he does every Saturday while watching football. I will put my kids to bed and drink beer.
NorCalNick: I will watch Tyler Frederickson highlights on loop at some point in the evening while tears collect in an empty cup on my desk.
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