FACTS & STATS: Site: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607) — Los Angeles,
California. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Cal 2-2, USC 3-1. Away Record: Cal
3-1, USC 3-2. Neutral Record: Cal 0-1, USC 0-0. Conference Record: Cal 3-4,
USC 5-2. Series Record: USC leads, 65-30-5.
GAME NOTES: Both the California Bears and the USC Trojans return from a bye to
square off in a Pac-12 Conference showdown at the Los Angeles Memorial
Coliseum on Thursday night.
California had a week off following a 45-31 victory over Oregon State on Nov.
1. The win was desperately needed for the Golden Bears, who had lost three
straight prior to facing the Beavers. Cal is now 5-4 overall, with a 3-4
league ledger. It has done a nice job on the road, winning three of four.
USC has also been off since Nov. 1 when it routed Washington State, 44-17, on
the road. The Trojans have won three of their last four games and are already
bowl eligible, while posting a 3-1 record at home. They face a difficult
challenge in the last two games of the season as they visit UCLA and host
Notre Dame before the month is over.
All signs point to a USC win in this one. The Trojans have claimed victory in
each of the last 10 meetings, including a 35-10 triumph in 2005, which was
later vacated. The Trojans rolled to a 62-28 victory last season and they have
a 65-30-5 advantage in the series overall.
Although it has not always led to victories, Cal has been impressive on
offense this season. The Golden Bears are third in the conference in total
offense (509.1 ypg) and second in scoring (41.9 ppg). They are the only team
besides Oregon in the Pac-12 that is averaging more than 40 points per game.
They have really picked up the pace in the last two games, posting 560 yards
against Oregon and 546 against Oregon State, following back-to-back games
below the 400-yard mark.
Heading up the offensive efforts is quarterback Jared Goff, who has already
eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark this season. He is second in the Pac-12 in
passing yards (3,119) and third in touchdown throws (27). A .626 completion
percentage and only four interceptions has highlighted a largely mistake-free
campaign for Goff, who was a bit off against Oregon State, completing just
51.1 percent of his pass attempts. It was his lowest single-game completion
percentage this season.
Stephen Anderson played one of his best game of the season against Oregon
State, recording 117 yards on nine receptions. The Golden Bears’ leading
receiver has a team-high 509 yards, as well as three scores, on 34 receptions
despite missing the first two games of the season. Bryce Treggs (40
receptions, 462 yards, five TDs), Chris Harper (32 receptions, 454 yards, five
TDs) for a unit that may not have as much depth this week, as Kenny Lawler and
Trevor Davis are each listed as questionable.
Daniel Lasco was the real force against Oregon State as he racked up a season-
high 188 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Lasco has given coach Sonny
Dykes plenty of reason to run as well as pass, with a total of 796 yards and
10 touchdowns on 147 carries. He has scored at least one touchdown in each of
the last five games, and has three 100-yard showings on the season.
Unfortunately, for all the offensive success, Cal still hasn’t been able to
put up much resistance on defense. The Golden Bears rank last in the Pac-12 in
yards allowed (525.9 ypg). In fact, they are the only team in the conference
to be allowing more than 460 yards per game.
The good news is USC is not one of the premier offensive teams in the league,
as it ranks eighth in total offense (458.9 ypg).
Cody Kessler has enjoyed a ton of success in the last three games, throwing
for 14 touchdowns in that span. He was particularly effective against
Washington State, finishing with a season-high 400 yards and five scores on
21-of-32 passing. He has a total of 2,548 yards and 25 touchdowns this season,
and only two interceptions on his record.
Nelson Agholor (66 receptions, 863 yards, eight TDs) and JuJu Smith (38
receptions, 501 yards, five TDs) are Kessler’s favorite targets. Agholor has
had at least 100 yards in each of the last three games, including a season-
high 220-yard effort against the Cougars. Smith tallied 74 yards and three
touchdowns on six receptions in that contest.
USC also employs the conference’s leading rusher in Javorius Allen (1,124
yards, eight TDs), who also has 334 yards and a score on 28 receptions.
While Cal may be an offensive force, USC has the defensive power to slow it
down. The Trojans are fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense (398.2 ypg). Su’a
Cravens has been a major reason for the success, with a team-high 12.5 tackles
There is no questioning Cal’s ability to move the football. However, there are
plenty of concerns on the other side. That type of defensive uncertainty is
not a good thing to take on the road, especially against a USC squad, which
has so much balance on offense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC 38, California 28