2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 7 - USC at California
Pac-12 Fearless Predictions &
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Oct. 13 USC 30 … at California 9
CFN Analysis: Finally, after dealing with a few shootouts, the defense showed up with its best game of the year. The five takeaways made it a rout, but the pressure in the backfield and the tremendous play by the front seven against the run was huge step forward for a team that’s been battling all season long to come up with big stops. Going forward, the offense can’t stall as much as it did, taking three field goals on the way to a 23-0 lead when an extra touchdown would’ve made it a true blowout. It’s nice that it was an easy win without Robert Woods have to carry the attack, He caught five passes for 36 yards, and Matt Barkley was mistake free keeping most of his passes relatively safe and short. With the way the D played, he didn’t need to take many chances. This was a nice win before getting eight days to prepare for Notre Dame.
For the third game in a row the offense didn’t come up with enough punch when it needed to. Turnovers haven’t been a problem, but when the running game isn’t working and QB Zach Maynard isn’t on, there can’t be so many mistakes. This team just isn’t good enough to give away five turnovers and commit seven penalties. More than that, there were the little things, like Keenan Allen fielding a punt inside the five, that keep showing that the team’s focus might not be air tight. Fortunately the schedule isn’t bad over the next month before facing Stanford, and while it’s not time to panic after three straight losses, the team isn’t improving.
(AP) SAN FRANCISCO -- After taking part in plenty of high-octane shootouts early in the season, Southern California relied on its defense to win a game when the offense wasn't clicking.
The Trojans forced five California turnovers and allowed only one touchdown to bail out the offense on a rare off night as USC won its eighth straight game in the series, 30-9 on Thursday.
"It was huge for us as a confidence booster," said linebacker Dion Bailey, who had two interceptions. "We had to come out and show everybody that we aren't as bad a defense as everybody thinks we are. We held them to only nine points. It was huge today. We picked up our offense. Hopefully next week we're firing on all cylinders and we'll be dangerous."
Matt Barkley threw touchdown passes to Marqise Lee and Brandon Carswell for USC (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12), but was held to a season-low 195 yards against a mostly stout Cal defense.
That didn't matter because of USC's own opportunistic defense. After allowing 84 points and 946 yards the previous two games, the Trojans kept Cal (3-3, 0-3) off the scoreboard until late in the third quarter and doubled their turnovers caused this season with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
"We needed that," coach Lane Kiffin said. "It was much more important for this team to win like that and have a game like that for confidence after all the things our defense has been hearing about them, staff, players, everybody involved. To come out here and get five turnovers and harass the quarterback all game long was really good."
The main concern for USC was on the health front as the Trojans lost Lee to a right shoulder injury in the first half and leading rusher Marc Tyler to a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Kiffin did not know the extent of the injuries after the game.
Zach Maynard committed four of Cal's five turnovers -- surpassing the team's season total coming into the game -- and the Bears dropped their sixth straight conference game since late last season. Cal is off to its worst conference start ever under coach Jeff Tedford.
Maynard threw for 294 yards and ran for a touchdown and his half brother, Keenan Allen, had a career-high 13 catches for 160 yards but it wasn't enough to overcome the litany of mistakes.
"You can't beat a good football team like SC when you turn the football over five times, especially down deep in their territory," Tedford said. "There's no question there is some good things, but there are some things that absolutely need to be improved."
This series has been decidedly one-sided ever since Cal upset USC 34-31 in triple overtime back in 2003. The Trojans have won eight straight and it hasn't even been close of late with USC outscoring Cal 125-29 the last four years.
Cal fell behind 23-0 early in the third quarter before the offense finally got going, with Maynard leading the Bears to a field goal and then scoring on a 3-yard run with 6 seconds left in the third to cut it to 23-9.
But Maynard's third interception midway through the fourth quarter led to Curtis McNeal's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 30-9 with 5:14 remaining.
"They played lights out tonight, no doubt about that," Barkley said of his defense. "They really helped us out on the offensive side of the ball. ... We struggled a little bit on offense, but we protected the ball and they didn't. Ultimately that helped us come out on top."
The Bears turned the ball over four times in the first half, including three alone by Maynard, and failed to convert a fake punt as they fell behind 20-0 at the break.
It wasn't quite as bad for the Bears as the game a year ago in Los Angeles when USC led 42-0 at halftime. Cal's defense actually did a decent job defending Barkley and the Trojans' high-powered offense, but USC took advantage of short fields for its scores.
Allen fumbled on Cal's fourth play from scrimmage to set the tone for the game, but the Bears withstood that miscue thanks to an odd play call by Kiffin.
On fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Trojans lined up in an off formation and snapped the ball diagonally to Rhett Ellison, who dropped it for a turnover. Kiffin tried the trick play instead of opting for the easy field goal.
"That's no fun," Kiffin said. "You're on ESPN. You have to do something fun."
The Trojans capitalized on the next turnover as Nick Perry forced a fumble by Maynard that led to Andre Heidari's first field goal.
USC then broke the game open with 17 points in the second quarter, getting a 39-yard TD catch from Lee over fellow freshman Stefan McClure, a field goal after Chris Galippo intercepted Maynard's pass deep in Cal territory and a 7-yard TD pass from Barkley to Carswell after punter Bryan Anger was stopped on a fake that made it 20-0.
Cal's only sustained drive of the half ended in the final minute when Maynard threw into triple coverage and was intercepted in the end zone by Bailey.
"I tried to force the ball on a couple plays," Maynard said. "There's a lot of mental errors. We've got to get better on our check downs and make a better play."
USC (4-1) at California (3-2) Oct. 13, 9:00, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … USC comes out of a bye week looking to maintain its dominance over Cal. The Trojans have won seven straight in the series, most of which have been by double-digits. While Troy is 4-1, the record fails to reveal some of the flaws it’s been facing at the outset of the season. The program endured scares from Minnesota, Utah and Arizona, and was unable to keep up with Arizona State in its only road game of the first half. For the players, who haven’t enjoyed the kind of widespread attention that past Trojans had grown accustomed to, this will be a rare and welcome chance to showcase their skills in primetime.
The Bears gave their best shot to Oregon last Thursday night, but came up short in a 43-15 defeat. It was yet another microcosm of this team’s knack for whetting appetites, but failing to deliver on sporadic flashes of success. Losers of back-to-back games to Washington and the Ducks, Cal will need to stem the tide this week in San Francisco. Head coach Jeff Tedford, in particular, can ill-afford another defeat in front of a national TV audience.
Why USC Might Win: The arrival of the Trojans is about the last thing a struggling Cal defensive backfield wants to see these days. The Bears have allowed three touchdown passes to three of their first five opponents, including Oregon’s Darron Thomas a week ago. This week, it’ll have to brace for its toughest challenge to date, QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods and the rest of the high-flying USC aerial assault.
Barkley has really come into his own this fall, throwing 14 touchdown passes and only four picks. In Woods, he has access to one of the game’s budding young superstars at receiver. Not only has he already caught 55 balls for 747 yards and six touchdowns, but he’s helping deflect attention from other teammates. Rookie WR Marqise Lee, for instance, has begun to blossom on the other side with a touchdown catch in each of the last three games.
Why Cal Might Win: When USC has struggled this fall, the defense was usually the culprit. While loaded with former blue-chip recruits, the Trojans are still suffering from many of the same problems they had in 2010. Hindered by a shaky pass defense that’s already yielded 10 touchdown passes, they’ve given up 84 points in the last two games, and have generated only five turnovers all season. The Bears will counter with a balanced offense that can challenge Troy with the running of underrated senior Isi Sofele and the passing of Zach Maynard.
Maynard has been shaky at times, but he can also be elevated by a terrific pair of receivers, Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. The tough Cal run defense, which ranks among the stingiest in America, will squelch USC’s bid for balance this week.
What To Watch Out For: Who wins the second half? The final two quarters have been the proving ground for both schools this season. While the Trojans have been outscored in the final 30 minutes in 2011, 86-68, the Bears just got done being blanked by Oregon in the third and fourth quarters. USC head coach Lane Kiffin worked his players extra hard during the bye week in an attempt to improve their conditioning. Cal’s Jeff Tedford, on the other hand, will take it somewhat easy on his kids following a physical game with the Ducks. Halftime adjustments will play a pivotal role in a game that could go either way after the break.
What Will Happen: It’ll be high-scoring, entertaining and tight throughout. In other words, just another typical Pac-12 game. Without a bowl berth to strive for in the fall, this Thursday is one of the dates that the Trojans have circled as must-win territory in 2011. Well-rested and adequately motivated, USC will deliver its most complete effort in weeks for that portion of the country that’s turned a blind eye to it in recent years. Barkley will be the hero as he continues to impress the NFL scouting community, helping outslug Cal at AT&T Park with three touchdown passes and more than 300 yards through the air.
CFN Prediction: USC 38 … Cal 31
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USC -3 O/U: 55.5
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