If we asked college football fans to name the rivals of USC, we’d have a list that includes the obvious choices of UCLA and Notre Dame. You may see the word Stanford thrown in the mix, but the Golden Bears of Cal would appear as an afterthought. Until Jeff Tedford’s arrival, the California program lay in a state of hibernation for many years. Rivalries are to be competitive, and Cal/USC was not. But since the 2003 season, where Cal announced its arrival with a stunning upset of the Trojans in Berkley, the most highly anticipated conference game has been Cal and USC, easily becoming the century’s greatest Pac 10 rivalry.
GOLDEN BEARS (6-2)
Last Week: W-Oregon
It’s been an up and down season for the 21st ranked Golden Bears. They opened with an impressive victory over Michigan State, only to be tripped up by Maryland and Arizona. They’re 4-1 in conference, and focusing on the same Pac 10 prize as their Saturday opponent. The offensive leadership of the Bears is still in question, with uncertainty as to who will be under center. Kevin Riley has led the attack, but suffered a concussion in last week’s victory over Oregon. He remains questionable for Saturday, which would leave Nate Longshore, who has twice lost to USC, to hold the reins. Sophomore Jahvid Best has emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs, currently second in the Pac 10 in rushing, at 105 yards per game. But Cal gets little support from its receiving corps, which lost DeSean Jackson and receptions leader LaVelle Hawkins to the NFL. The Golden Bears also feature an underrated defensive unit, with a linebacking trio that is only shadowed by the talent at USC.
Last Week: W-Washington
In one of the biggest conference games of the season, the Trojans will be playing without the services of Kevin Ellison, one of their best defenders. The Nation’s No.1 defense will be tested again, with Tedford bringing his balanced pro-style attack to the coliseum. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will also be tested, and a repeat of the offensive performances against Arizona State and Arizona will not defeat this incoming opponent. The Washington schools are a poor measure, despite the gaudy numbers. The Trojans, though ranked 10th in the nation offensively, have struggled in 3 of the 6 Pac 10 games, appearing the most impressive against the worst in conference and programs out of conference. One of the biggest keys to the game may be the ability of the Trojans to run the ball, as it has always been an escape hatch for the sputtering unit. In the lone loss this season, USC failed to establish any dominance on the ground.
Analysis: As much hype as this game brings, the Golden Bears lack the talent to compete. The Trojans are home, the defense is aggressive, and be it Longshore or Riley, the Cal quarterbacks are immobile. The Trojans will take away everything the Bears love to do best, and if the offense can show any consistency, USC rolls to an easy victory.
All Time Series: Trojans lead 59-25-4
Streak: Trojans won 4