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Cal Game Day Notes

Apologies for the lack of posting the last couple of days. I have been getting hammered at work with little time to do any significant posting. Unfortunately next week is not going to be any better...

Where to begin...

I have not had the opportunity to look at this game like I had hoped but it is summed up in one short sentence...forget the BCS, the loser of this game is out of the Rose Bowl. The conference has gotten stronger just enough this season so that NO 2-loss team can with the Pac-10. That is not necessarily a bad thing but it is reality. SC is struggling just enough while other teams are finally putting their big boy pants on to try and make a run at USC's incredible run.

Cal has some issues. I am not ready to throw out their loss to Oregon as some road fluke...no way, not a 42-3 loss. They have gone on the road this season and had some nice wins so they are capable of firing on all cylinders. Of course, you could also point to the fact that this is the Pac-10 and no one is able to duck anyone...everyone knows each others tendencies and how to scheme against them. Sometimes it takes talent.

Cal has had trouble getting that big win against USC and Cal fans are itching for a fight to knock USC off.

"We've had some great games with them over the years," Carroll said. "I think it is a good rivalry, and with me being from Northern California as well as some of our players, that certainly lends something special to it."

With both teams ranked for the fifth time in the schools' last six meetings, Cal (3-1, 0-1) will take one more crack at the task of getting back on the winning side of these annual events. Yet the Trojans also have high stakes, with their streak of seven straight Pac-10 titles falling into serious jeopardy with one more conference loss.

"We've only won one game against them, so obviously they've got the better of our matchup," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "But it has been competitive, and they're well-thought games, but we have a lot of respect for what they do in all things. It's a struggle to be successful against them because they are so good on defense, and have so much good play potential on offense. They're a tough group, no question about it."

USC needs to play to their potential.

With Matt Barkley looking better this week since his injury against Ohio St. could this be the week that the sputtering USC offense is about to take off?

Now Barkley is feeling good, and Trojans coach Pete Carroll believes his freshman quarterback might be on the verge of taking off in a major way — even in another difficult environment (Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium) against another stingy defense (Cal).

"This’ll be a great challenge for him," Carroll said. "It’s an exciting opportunity. He’s feeling the best he’s felt in weeks. Obviously last week he was able to play, so we know he’s able to go. But being on the road again, this is where he hopefully can start to get a foothold on the season and really start contributing in a consistent way. I know he’s really up for doing that, and I’m excited to see him play."

The loss of Stafon Johnson hurts but USC has depth at running back so now it is time to see some new faces on the field. They need to step up and produce in the way we have expected them to. I don't see a lot of situational running plya in this game. I expect Carroll and Bates to Power football. There will never be another Thunder and Lightning but I see no reason not to have some combination of Bradford, McKnight and Havili on the field. Bradford is more than ready, he sounds like he is on a mission and Gable is going to get some touches as well.

The passing game is still a concern...not because of Barkley's shoulder but because until someone other than Damian Williams steps up and makes some plays SC will have to rely on the run. Ausberry needs hang onto the ball better and while I liked the pitch and catch to Carswell last week, until that is a more consistent hook-up I am not sold that passing game is better at least not until RoJo gets back in the line up. That also means that the O line needs to live up to the hype as well! That means consistently opening up some holes for the running backs. That means giving Barkley time to to what he needs to make the right play.

They know they have not lived up to their billing...that has to change today!

USC knew it would rely on a first-year starting quarterback this season, but that was supposed to be offset by an experienced offensive line and a corps of veteran tailbacks.

So it was surprising this week when USC coach Pete Carroll thought about what ailed the offense and said, "we haven't gotten comfortable."

It would be an understandable issue for freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, but as Carroll noted, "it's not about Matt, it's about the rest of the offense."

That is a troublesome statement because the No. 7 Trojans play road games at California, Notre Dame and Oregon this month and if something does not change quickly, the season could fall apart in the next few weeks.

Go figure...who knew that BArkley would be less of a question then a very experienced O line.

But that does not explain the offensive line being part of the problem. It was supposed to be the strength of the team with its top eight linemen returning from last season including all five starters.

"We've got a lot to get better at," offensive guard Jeff Byers said. "We've left a lot of yards on the field in the running game. It's a consistency issue. You forget it takes all five guys."

Perhaps one reason for discontent is that the line's expectations were so high, that if one play goes awry, it surprises people.

Disagree...

It isn't about one play, it has been a sense of overall under achievement. Most rational fans can accept a missed block or assignment here or there but it seem that they O line just hasn't been all they can be. That has to change today.

I would expect Cal to try and stack the box and challenge the USC O line like UW did and try to use the crowd to intimidate Barkley. But like I said earlier in the week Memorial Stadium is not the Shoe and Barkley handled that pretty well on that last drive when the fans we the loudest. If Barkley is feeling better Cal cannot afford to stack the box as Barkley is a lot more confident back there than Corp is.

The Key to SC winning this game on defense is of course minimizing Jahvid Best. He won't be 100% contained but as we saw last week he can be minimized...

The Trojans did it a year ago, limiting Best to 30 yards on 13 carries, and the Bears had no counterpunch. Quarterbacks Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley combined for 138 yards and an interception in USC’s 17-3 victory. And Riley didn’t exactly look like the second coming of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s 42-3 loss at Oregon.

"We had success against them last year," safety Taylor Mays said. "There’s no reason we shouldn’t have success against them again. We just have to do what we do in big games."

Best has nine touchdowns in four games and averages 6.8 yards per carry. He reminds Harris of USC’s Joe McKnight. Harris doesn’t buy the Reggie Bush comparisons.

"He ain’t Reggie," Harris said. "Not yet."

Things are a little different on this defense then when SC played Cal in L.A. last year. They are a little thin in the secondary and at the LB spot. That is not saying that the defense is not up to the task but they are different. Best has some moves no question...

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Thoughts on today's game...

Jeff Tedford on the Dan Patrick Show...

Cal vs. USC: It comes down to this … | College Sports Hotline
Wilner

No longer glamorous, USC-Cal is about desperation - Pac-10 - ESPN
Miller

College Football's Bad News Bears - WSJ.com

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Other items...

Here are a couple of great articles on the Horton brother starting together for the first time today...

Horton gets big shot at new spot - OCRegister.com

Horton brothers will start together for USC -- latimes.com

Armond Armstead could be back in time for Notre Dame...

USC defensive lineman Armstead could make his return against Notre Dame - LA Daily News

Here is PC's meeting with the press up in Berkley...

PC meets the press in Berkley

For USC, it's third and a long way to go - OCRegister.com
Hopefully this changes today!

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Game Previews...

Defense 101: How to build a Bear trap " The Trojan Empire

Preview: No. 7 USC at No. 24 Cal " The Trojan Empire

Spotlight game: No. 7 USC (3-1) at No. 24 Cal (3-1) - Sporting News
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