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USC vs Cal Preview

USC and Cal meet for a Thursday Night game in Los Angeles.

NCAA Football: Utah at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The USC Trojans back are back in action at the Coliseum and looking to continue to their push towards a Pac-12 South division title. USC’s last game saw the Trojans handling the Arizona Wildcats 48-14. Last week USC had a bye week, which gave them a chance to reset themselves and have extra time to prepare for the Cal Bears (4-3 overall, 2-2 in Pac-12 play), who are coming off a double overtime victory against the Oregon Ducks last Friday night.

Last week against Arizona the USC offense managed to get off to a hot start by sparking a 73 yard drive which led to a touchdown. From there USC quarterback Sam Darnold continued to impress everyone by throwing for 235 yards and 5 touchdowns while rushing for 54 on 6 attempts. One of the questions coming into the game was USC’s running game without starting running back Justin Davis. The run was indeed effective with Ronald Jones and Aca’cedric Ware despite USC dominating through the air. JuJu Smith Schuster continued his stellar play with 132 yards receiving and 3 touchdown grabs. The Trojan faithful had to hold its collective breath as Smith-Schuster went down with an apparent back injury late in the 3rd quarter, however he would be okay as the injury was ruled a back spasm. USC did get bad news as wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. tore his ACL on a punt return.

The defense continued to show improvements week in and week out last week. They made life for miserable for Arizona Freshman Kahlil Tate. The Trojans forced Tate to beat them with his arm instead of his legs. USC’s defense forced 4 turnovers and held Arizona’s offense in check, allowing only 14 points. In the last 3 games USC has held its opponents to at least 20 points or under. Game by game the Trojans improve defensively and they’ll look to continue that trend against a Cal offense that is running the ball more but is still very pass happy.

The Cal Bears edged out a struggling Oregon Ducks team, which took double overtime to do so. Cal led the Ducks 31-14 at halftime, but the Ducks managed to rally back to take a 35-34 lead. The game would go back and forth during the 4th quarter, which called for Overtime where the Bears and Ducks would score a touchdown a piece. In the second OT the Bears would be forced to kick a field goal to give them the lead. On the ensuing Ducks drive, Cal would get a key interception to seal the win. Cal quarterback Davis Webb shredded the Ducks secondary, passing for 325 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Bears also gave Oregon fits on the ground as both Tre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad rushed for a combined 302 yards on the ground.

USC’s secondary will be challenged by Cal’s passing game. The Trojans can’t afford to give up the big play. Look for Pendergast to dial up some pressure on Webb to disrupt Cal’s offense. Cal is one of the top passing offenses in the Pac-12 averaging 370 yards per game. If the Trojans pass rush can get to Webb then things can get out of hand in a hurry. The offense on the other hand will have to keep it’s flow going. Last week they did an amazing job at holding the football, which was something that’s been an issue the last few games this season. The Trojans have to come and play disciplined football. USC committed 8 penalties for 98 yards against Arizona last week. USC has to get the penalties in order if they want to move forward in this game and through the season. Last season, USC walked out of Berkley with a 27-21 victory. Cal will only get 6 days to prepare for the Trojans, while USC has extended time to get a look at the Bears.

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