Coming off their first loss of the season, the now 13th-ranked USC Trojans seek a quick turnaround, as they welcome the California Golden Bears to the Coliseum for Pac-12 action this weekend.
The Trojans' national title hopes haven't been completely dashed, but took a serious hit with last weekend's 21-14 loss at Stanford. It marked the fourth straight loss to the Cardinal and leaves Lane Kiffin's squad with no margin for error the rest of the way.
Jeff Tedford is perceived to be on the hot seat in Berkeley, especially with a slow start that has California at just 1-2 thus far. Traveling to Columbus last week proved to be no easy task, but the Golden Bears held their own against a very strong Ohio State team before falling 35-28 in a spirited game.
Despite the loss, Tedford sees the game against Ohio State as something to build on.
"It is very discouraging because we came here to win and we played well enough to win, but the scoreboard just doesn't say that. No matter what the stats are, what the scoreboard says or what happened today, we proved we can play with the best of them."
This marks the 100th meeting in this series, with USC holding a 64-30-5 all- time advantage. The Trojans have won each of the last eight meetings, including a 30-9 victory in last year's matchup. This series has been uninterrupted since 1926.
The Golden Bears eclipsed 500 yards of total offense for the second straight game, but it wasn't enough as OSU escaped with the win thanks to a long TD pass with just under three and half minutes to play. Sophomore tailback Brendan Bigelow made the most of his touches, as he took his first carry for 81 yards, the longest in Ohio Stadium history by an opponent. Bigelow finished the game with 160 yards and two TDs on just four carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Zach Maynard finished with 280 yards passing and one TD. All- American candidate Keenan Allen was once again Maynard's favorite target, finishing with nine catches, for 80 yards.
Cal has shown balance in the early going, averaging over 200 yards rushing (208.7 ypg) and passing (256.0 ypg). Isi Sofele has handled the majority of the carries on the ground, averaging 4.7 yards per tote and 70.7 yards per game.
Maynard is a capable passer, completing 66.7 percent of his throws thus far, for 754 yards, with four TDs and two INTs. Allen has a nice rapport with his brother (Maynard) and leads the team with 20 receptions, for 216 yards and one TD. Chris Harper (15 receptions, 183 yards, two TDs) and Bruce Treggs (nine receptions, 128 yards, one TD) provide other viable targets.
California's defense has been less productive on the season, allowing over 32 points per game and just over 400 yards of total offense (411.0). Through three games, the Golden Bears have generated 23 TFLs, six sacks and four turnovers.
Junior cornerback Steve Williams is one of four defenders with over 20 tackles on the year, leading the team with 24 stops. He is also responsible for one of the squad's two INTs thus far. Seniors Robert Mullins (LB) and Josh Hill (S) are a close second with 23 tackles apiece. Senior LB J.P. Hurrell has just eight total tackles, but is responsible for half of the team's six sacks.
Not only is USC fighting an uphill battle to get back in the national championship picture, but quarterback Matt Barkley's Heisman campaign may be over. The All-American struggled big time against Stanford, completing less than 50 percent of his passes (20-of-41) for 254 yards, with no TDs and two INTs. A good portion of that yardage went to All-American candidate Marqise Lee, who finished with eight catches, for 100 yards. One of the real problems was a lack of production on the ground, with USC managing a mere 34 yards.
The offensive woes are an aberration, as this squad is still as potent a unit as there is in the country. USC is paced by its lethal passing game and Barkley won't remain in a sustained slump. In three games, the senior signal- caller is completing 60.6 percent of his passes, for 813 yards, with 10 TDs and three INTs.
Lee (29 receptions, 363 yards, four TDs) and Robert Woods (20 receptions, 173 yards, four TDs) remain the nation's most talented receiving duo. Penn State transfer Silas Redd (4.9 ypc, three TDs) had a forgettable game against the Cardinal, but remains a valuable asset on the ground.
The USC defense has shown itself to be a step or two behind the offense in terms of productivity, despite having its fair share of top-notch talent. The unit really struggled against the run at Stanford (202 yards allowed) after showing chinks in the armor against the pass the first two weeks (248.3 ypg).
The team has a pair of All-American candidates in the middle of the defense in the form of sophomore LBs Dion Bailey (24 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, three INTs) and Hayes Pullard (21 tackles, one INT returned for a TD). A third All-American hopeful resides in the secondary in the form of safety T.J. McDonald (20 tackles, 2.0 TFLs).