Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Into the Bears' Lair

Don't look now, but the Trojans seem to be hitting their stride. USC just hammered the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday night 51-21, taking a 37-0 lead in the second quarter. In my view, the Trojans have played very well the last 3 games (much better than games vs Oregon, ASU and ND) and the offense appears to have found its rhythm....I know this makes Coach Carroll and Matt Leinart very happy.

The tailgate on Saturday was outstanding, thanks to everyone for helping make the tailgate a great game day experience for everyone. In particular I would like to thank Curt and Jennifer for generously supplying the wonderful food (great tri-tip!) and Aaron and Melanie for bringing the keg. Next week brings another special meal, as Phil Navarro will be bringing lobster and yellowtail for the group. Those of you who attended the Notre Dame tailgate last year can attest that Phil brings some great fish!
Stanford Review

  • The Trojans stormed out of the tunnel and just dominated the Cardinal in the first half, building a 37-0 lead
  • Reggie was on fire in the first quarter, including an awesome TD run where he simply outran the Stanford safety, despite the fact the safety had the angle
  • The Trojans were able to successfully complete a few screen passes, something USC has struggled with the last 4 games
  • The offensive line was outstanding...again. USC averaged 6.5yds per carry and allowed zero QB sacks
  • Jarrett continues to amaze....#8 made another unbelievable TD grab while racking up 101 yds on 8 catches
  • The Trojans finally let the TE position out of the bag....7 catches for the tight ends, including 2 TDs. It was great to see Fred Davis get in the endzone...this kid has worked real hard and has a bright future at USC
  • Who could of predicted that Fred Davis (1) and Jimmy Miller (2) would each have more TD catches than Dom Byrd (0) through 9 games this year
  • I hope Dom is healthy enough to play against Cal....he is a dangerous weapon
  • Stanford came into the Coliseum having zero turnovers in the last 4 games....they left with 5 turnover against the Trojans....it is amazing how Pete focuses on turnover margin (USC is leading the conference and 6th in the nation)
  • The Trojan corners are struggling with the deep ball....this is something we have not seen in USC teams under Pete...I know this is a focus of the coaching staff and I believe USC will improve in this area
  • While the Trojans only recorded one official sack against Stanford, USC put several hits on the Cardinal QB and pressured him often. I am quite sure he was sore on Sunday!
  • Lawrence Jackson was outstanding....during one series, he hit the QB 3 plays in a row
  • I think that Pete's friendship with Stanford head coach Walt Harris had a major influence on the game plan in the second half. Pete really called off the dogs in this one

Thoughts on the Cal Game

  • Cal may be 6-3, but the Bears are a quality team with very talented skill players and an established history of playing the Trojans tough
  • One factor that is different this (other than the players of course) is that USC played Cal early in the season from 2002-2004 (6th game, 4th game, 5th game) and this year the Trojans are seeing Cal in the 10th game
  • The reason I mention this is that it certainly seems that the Trojans have played better football later in the year under Pete Carroll (including this year!)
  • I expect about 20k Trojans to attend the game and I look forward to seeing many of you there
  • Cal has an outstanding rushing game (2nd in the conference behind USC and 8th nationally), averaging 243 yds per game. The Bears have two very dangerous backs in Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, both who average over 100 yds per game
  • Many will claim that Cal has just feasted on weak OOC foes, but the Bears are averaging 229 yds rushing per game in the Pac 10. Oregon State somehow managed to hold the Bears to 75 yds rushing (at Cal), but all other Pac 10 teams have given up big time yards on the ground to Cal
  • The Bears' offensive line is very good, although they did lose their starting tackle to a knee injury several weeks back
  • It appears that Cal's offensive line is more adept at run blocking than pass blocking....the Cal OL has given up 19 sacks (vs 10 for USC), including 18 sacks in 6 Pac 10 games (vs 6 for USC)...lets hope the Trojan DL can put some pressure on the QB
  • Cal has struggled with the passing game this year (last in the conference), averaging 201 yds per game and completing 49.6% of passes. The Bears have also thrown 12 interceptions, tied for 2nd worst in the conference
  • The Bear's QB, Joe Ayoob, is a very athletic, mobile quarterback who has struggled with accuracy and decision making...I expect the Trojans to try and confuse the first year starter
  • Cal has 3 outstanding wide receivers with Desean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins. All 3 are talented, but inexperienced...Jackson is a real playmaker with legit speed and the ability to make people miss in the open field
  • I expect Cal to work hard to establish the run and mix in the short pass (screens to Lynch, bubble screen to Jackson). I also fully expect the Bears to try and beat the Trojans with the deep pass a few times
  • Cal will likely try and replicate their game plan from last year (same as ND this year)....the question will be can the Bears convert consistently on 3rd down. The Irish did (48% on the year and ranked 10th nationally), but the Bears are converting 35.9% of 3rd down conversions (ranked 78th)
  • Lock of the week-Cal will attempt a pass from either a WR or RB in this game
  • The Trojans have historically played well against one dimensional running teams...I expect the Trojans to try and force Ayoob to make the throws necessary to win
  • The health of Oscar Lua (bruised bone in knee) and availability of Rey Maualuga (visiting his severely ill father) will impact the Trojans ability to stop the run. Oscar is going to try and practice on Thursday and Rey has much more important issues to tend to than football right now
  • If the game were today, USC would start Rivers, Ashton and Williams at LB, with Cushing and Maiava getting major playing time as well.
  • Cal has struggled against the better defenses in the Pac 10, averaging 315 yds per game against Arizona (#4 in Pac total D), Oregon St (#5) and Oregon (#2). The Bears racked up on average 550 yards per game against Washington (#6), UCLA (#7) and Washington St (#10).....The Trojans are ranked #1 in total defense
  • There is no doubt in my mind that Cal will break some long runs and probably complete a long pass. I just hope that USC can minimize the damage and the Cal points on the scoreboard
  • Defensively, Cal is ranked 3rd in the conference in total defense, rushing defense and passing defense
  • One could make the argument that Cal's defensive statistics are overrated because they have not played the #1 (USC) or #2 (ASU) offenses in the conference.....#3 (WSU) lit up the Bears for 601 yds and 38pts. To be fair, Cal also has not played the #10 offense either
  • The front 7 for the Bears is talented, but lacks experience. The secondary is full of talented veterans. McCleskey and Hughes are the two best players in Cal's secondary
  • I expect the Trojans to continue and execute the same game plan we have seen the last 3 weeks....I hope the Trojans can establish a great offensive rhythm early in the game
  • The Trojans are leading the nation in yards per carry....we might see the Trojans try and pound the ball more in the second half
  • It would be great to see a Trojan tight end make a big play while matched up with an inexperienced Cal LB
  • I would like to see the bubble screen to Jarrett used early and often...he has a nasty straight arm and usually gets 5-8 yds. This play also seems to draw in the corners, leaving more room for the big play down the field

The bottom line is this...Cal has talent, lots of talent, but has struggled to put a complete game together at times due to inexperience at key positions. The Bears are dangerous and have played the Trojans tougher than anyone during the last 3 years (84-79 cumulative score). It is likely this will be a very tough game in a hostile road environment. Lets hope the Trojans can grind out another tough victory on the road.

Fight On


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