The USC Trojans have an adjusted schedule this week in preparation for their Thursday night game against Cal. Consequently, the Trojans treated their Sunday as though it were Tuesday. Like coach Helton normally does on Tuesday during his post practice presser he provided his assessment of the upcoming opponent the Cal Bears.
On offense the Bears run a ton of plays having run an FBS record 118 plays against Oregon last Friday. A team that can run that many plays can absolutely drain a defense particularly late in the game. One way to counteract that many plays is to substitute frequently on defense and control the time of possession on offense. Both strategies keep your defensive players a little more fresh and helps prevent the opposing offense from imposing their will.
Unfortunately for the Trojans backup linebacker Jabarri Ruffin has been suspended limiting their substitution options, and running back Justin Davis is 50/50 at best which may hurt USC’s chances of being able to run the ball and control the time of possession. On the plus side the Trojans are coming off a bye week and Coach Helton said that the team had much more energy in practice on Sunday after having the extra time to rest.
In addition to running so many plays the Bears offense is also balanced. Cal runs the air raid offense which is traditionally characterized by having far more passing attempts than rushing. The Bears, however, usually run more frequently than other air raid offenses like Washington State but this season that seem to be more balanced than ever. Against Oregon Cal threw the ball 61 times for 325 yards and ran the ball 57 times for 311 yards. Cal has thrown the ball 363 times and carried the ball 249 times. That translates to throwing the ball about 59% of the time. Adoree’ Jackson and the rest of the USC secondary will need to have a great night but the defensive front will need to step up and disrupt the Cal offense by both getting pressure on the QB and stopping the run.
On defense Cal struggles quite a bit and only twice this season they have managed to keep opposing offenses to under 45 points in the game. Statistically it should be a fantastic game for USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Helton did mention that Cal switched things up on defense in the Oregon game playing more man coverage in order to overload the box. Helton was not sure if that is an identity shift by the Cal defense or if it was just a one time adjustment for the Oregon offense.
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