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Q&A with California Golden Blogs: Can Cal pull off the upset in a battle of undefeated teams?

All you need to know about USC’s Pac-12 North rival straight from the source

California v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

This week we were fortunate enough to speak to our SB Nation brethren California Golden Bears in preparation for Saturday’s game against undefeated Cal. Being the experts they are—they filled us in on what to expect for tomorrow.

In what capacity does Wilcox being an ex USC Assistant, play a role in helping Cal slowing USC down?

California Golden Blogs (CGB): Not much. He has seen the Helton offense from a schematic standpoint up close; however, this is a whole new crew of players whom he will face. Maybe he will be able to help DC Tim DeRuyter with scheme, but Helton knows what Wilcox knows and thus may throw some wrinkles. We'll see, but I am skeptical that Cal will somehow outperform itself schematically. it'll be on our players to make plays within the defense.

NCAA Football: Weber State at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cal has been stout against the run through the first three weeks, how can they continue their run-stopping success against Ronald Jones III and Stephen Carr?

CGB: I think it is due to the fact that Ole Miss doesn't have a good run game, Weber knew that Cal has problems covering the deep passing plays, and UNC was still figuring itself out in the post-Trubitsky era. After looking at the S&P+ numbers, I think it will be Cal dropping a SS in the box and playing either Cover 1 or 3 or 4 to make sure that it can play the run while hoping that our corners can cover your WRs. We have talent on the outside and I can imagine DeRuyter/Wilcox banking on CBs Camryn Bynum, Darius Allensworth, Elijah Hicks, and Marloshawn Franklin to cover WRs 1-on-1.

Speaking of the run, junior RB Patrick Laird has been on fire, averaging 7.51 yards per carry while amassing 278 yards and four rushing scores. How can USC attempt to slow down Laird and Cal’s running game?

CGB:I think SC will have to know that Laird doesn't go down at first contact and that he has long speed to take it to the house. Much of his yards come from running outside and getting a head of steam. What SC can do is to stop Laird is force runs into the teeth of the DL.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at California Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

This will be sophomore QB Ross Bowers’ biggest game yet. Given what you’ve seen from him so far, how would you expect to perform?

CGB: I expect he will try to make plays—he's an ambitious dude with confidence in his arm. You could see that in his INT in the red zone against Ole Miss where he forced a ball through triple coverage Brett Favre–style and it was picked off. But one thing for sure, he won't be rattled by INTs or sacks. I don't expect his clock to speed up too much or for him to panic late in the game. I see 260 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT by the end of the game.

Cal is coming off one of their most dominant defensive performances in a while against Ole Miss, how do they build off that game? What players need to continue to perform to slow down the Trojans?

CGB: They will need all the confidence to face R.Jones in open space. He is agile with the ball and can make players miss surefire tackles. LBs Devante Downs and Raymond Davison will be my keys to the game. If they can be effective defensive players all day long, then it will be hard for SC to generate the "move the sticks" yardage that sustains drives. Besides that, our corners will have to cover 1-on-1 on the WRs. That will be hard as well.

Prediction for this game?

CGB: Homer in me says Cal 35–USC 31. But the realist sees USC 38–Cal 21.

A special thanks to Piotr T Le and the staff at California Golden Blogs. You can read their awesome coverage here.