Team Notes Heading Into Saturday:
*Stafon Johnson’s physical condition improved Thursday. He has been transferred to Cedars Sinai hospital. Coach Carroll said: “It’s amazing how he is dealing with it, he’s up and around and getting out of bed. He looks like he is OK, to tell you the truth.”
*Defensive End Nick Perry practiced Thursday and despite being hobbled by a bruised knee is expected to play against Cal.
*Corp still #2: Mitch Mustain had a great week of practice but Coach Carroll said that Aaron Corp is still the #2 back. Will see how long that lasts if USC is in a tight situation on the road and Barkley is unable to go. . .
*Speedster Wideout Ronald Johnson expects to be back for the Notre Dame game which will be a big lift to the offense.
*Wes and Shane Horton will both start for USC on defense Saturday. It will be the first time since 1990 (Craig and Don Gibson) that two brothers started in the same game for the Trojans.
( 5 keys to the Cal game after the jump)
5 Keys to setting a Bear Trap:
1- Contain Cal’s running game: It is imperative the Trojan defense force Cal QB Kevin Riley to beat them. Jahvid Best is the best tailback in the country and a Heisman-type performance from him will be too much for the Trojans to overcome. Best is hampered by a bruised foot which could affect his ability to break off big runs. On the flip side, if the Trojans force Cal into mid to long 3rd down situations and pressure Riley, he tends to throw a high ball to his Receivers which should lead to interception opportunities.
2- Spread out the offense: Cal’s victory over Minnesota and blow-out loss to Oregon has provided the coaches with quite a bit of evidence in how to attack Cal’s defense. Look for the Trojans to spread the offense out more than usual with three-wide sets and opening up the middle of the field for throws to McCoy, Havili and Mcknight. THis could be a game where the Trojans throw a fair amount early to set up a more efficient running game. Though the Cal defense got torched by Oregon, this is a very good defense that will cause the Trojans a ton of problems if they play a conservative and predictable game.
3- Play disciplined football: This is the #1 factor for every Trojan football game. The only team that has beaten USC in the past 2 years is USC. If the Trojans get penalized over 10 times and turn the football over they will probably lose the football game. The Trojans need to stay away from putting the offense into big holes due to procedure and holding penalties. The coaches will get conservative and get away from an attacking the field when the offense operates at a disadvantage.
4- The emergence of Bradford: Spreading out the offense will create a few more opportunities for inside hand-offs to Bradford to get tough, punishing yards on the Cal defense. Bradford is SC’s fastest back when he gets to his top gear and if he breaks through the Cal defensive line he could put together a nice string of long runs.
5- Special Teams needs a mistake free performance: The Trojans cannot give up an easy score on special teams or leave points on the field. For USC to go undefeated during this brutal 4 game stretch, special teams will need to play lights out to help the young offense. A few big returns in the punt and kick return game will elevate the offense.
After a big loss, Cal has typically struggled in the following game. However, they are playing at home against a conference rival and have to win this game for any chance at a BCS bowl. Expect Cal to come out full throttle early, especially on defense. They are going to do everything they can to rattle Barkley and confuse playcaller Jeremy Bates.
The Trojans need to counter that by scoring early and staying consistent offensively throughout the game. They cannot afford the 2nd and 3rd quarter lulls that have plagued them this season.
Defensively, USC has will have done its job if they make Kevin Riley throw more than he would like in long yardage situations. If the defense allows Cal to run consistently it will be very difficult for the Trojans to win because Cal will most likely win the time of possession battle and they will be worn down late in the game which cannot happen against a great back like Jahvid Best.
A victory at Berkeley will go a long way in getting the Trojans ready to make a championship run. . .two losses before the midway point of the season will be extremely unfamiliar territory. . .Talk about a big game.