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Conquest Chronicles Staff Predictions: #5 USC Trojans vs Cal Golden Bears

As the Men of Troy venture on the road for the first time this season, we try our best to predict if they’ll come back with a victory

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In a battle of undefeated Pac-12 teams, #5 USC might be in for another dog fight Saturday afternoon against the Cal Golden Bears. Given the rollercoaster of a season the Trojans have had thus far, a few of us here at Conquest Chronicles have tried to narrow down the result of this highly volatile team’s first road game.

Richard: The Trojans will know who they REALLY are in this game.

Cal won’t be the toughest opponent USC has faced yet, but it will certainly be the most adversity they’ve faced all season.

Cal has a very underrated team, fueled by an offense led by one of my favorite college football players in Patrick Laird. Laird is almost a poor man’s Darren McFadden as his uptight running style and versatility in the passing game make him an ideal weapon in college football.

Getting all they can handle for Laird, the Trojans will also have to account being on the road for the first time this season.

Cal has a very loyal and vocal fan base, and I’m sure they’ll be turning out for this contest.

Even though I don’t expect this to be an easy game, I do expect the Trojans to control the time of possession as Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr account for 200 total yard and three scores. Sam Darnold won’t have to turn up the heat this one as it’ll be a battle of the backs.

Trojans control the game in a 33-17 runningfest. (Yeah, I made up a word)

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew: USC’s first road test.

USC had a narrow victory over a pretty talented Texas team. A game that took double OT and banged up quite a few key players. This week the Trojans roll into the Bay Area to face a 3-0 Cal team, who had wins over North Carolina and Ole Miss.

This game will be interesting given that Ex USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is now the head coach of Cal. One has to wonder if the Trojans will have a let down given that they’re coming off a phyiscal and emotional win against Texas last week.

This game will be closer than expected, but I have USC winning this one and continuing their winning streak again Cal.

USC-38 Cal-21

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Josh: There will be no fooling the Trojans in this game.

This is going to the be the game that Sam Darnold uses to take ahold of the season as a whole. Cal is an up-and-comer, but Darnold will have himself a game and will put to rest any talks there are of the Golden Bears being a threat for the rest of the year in the Pac-12. If this game is close at all it will be early on—I fully expect USC to be comfortably ahead near the beginning of the third quarter. Justin Wilcox has this Cal defense playing some good ball but the USC offense is going to be too much for them.

USC tops Cal, 41-24

Brendan: Trojans defense flexes it’s muscle

While it’s true Patrick Laird is a talented back, I think he has some struggles against this Trojan defense today. The defense has steadily improved throughout all three games, and are prepared to take another big step against Cal. Sam Darnold will have a solid day, maybe not huge passing yards but extremely efficient nonetheless. Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr will each have big days, similar numbers to the Stanford game. I think Cal comes out strong and really gets after this USC team, but the Trojans take care of business. No OTs needed.

USC-28 Cal-13

Nick: USC wins in another tight contest

The Trojans hit the road for the first time after 3 grueling games at home. The USC roster is pretty banged up right now with several players either unable to play or will attempt to play through some nagging injuries. In addition to injuries it is possible that the Trojans might be a little bit drained mentally too.

Cal is playing some decent defense this season though they are still prone to giving up big plays. The Bears bend but don’t break defense has allowed opponents to accumulate a ton of yards but not many points. Expect the Bears to follow the blue print Texas laid out in containing the USC offense which may very well work again if the wide receiver position does not improve this week. Steven Mitchell Jr.’s groin injury kept him out of practice and Ronald Jones is also dealing with an injury. That means that Darnold may be headed into this game with only one wide receiver that is actually reliable and his leading rusher not on the field.

Cal has also played incredibly well, almost dominant, in the second half of games this year. If this game is close or the Bears are leading at halftime you absolutely could see Cal pull off the upset. This is made even more likely if USC’s depleted roster is worn down late in the game. The Bears may present yet another huge test for the Trojans despite being a 3-score underdog at home.

Still, the Trojans should have enough talent to get past the Bears. It should also have finally sunk in that the Trojans are going to get every team’s absolute best shot every week meaning there may not be any easy wins the rest of the season. Hopefully the USC players now understand that every game for them will be pretty intense. On the wide receiver front the unit has been working aggressively to work on the dropped passes. Hopefully that work pans out otherwise the USC offense may become one-dimensional with their leading rusher injured. This one will be very close, and while I can see the Bears pulling off the upset, Sam Darnold is one of, if not the most clutch QB in college football right now.

USC beats Cal 21-17