Friday, November 17, 2006

Bears Looking for Revenge

Work continues to keep me from blogging each week, but I skipped the Oregon blog and the Trojans won, so no harm done! Huge game this week against Cal....The Bears have made the Trojans their #1 rival and it is not even close. From the fans (go read the Cal message boards), to the players (see DeSean Jackson's comments in the press this week) all the way to the coaches, they view USC as THE GAME for Cal. Here are my thoughts for the game:

  • Cal is dynamic on offense...the Bears are ranked 1st in the conference in passing and scoring (35 pts/game), 2nd in total yards and 3rd in rushing offense
  • The Bears have 2 of the 5 best offensive players in the Pac 10 in DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Jackson is a very dangerous receiver and the best punt returner in the nation (4 TDs on punt returns)
  • QB Nate Longshore has been very solid for the Bears...he leads the conference in passing efficiency and has proven he can connect on the deep ball
  • Cal's offensive line has allowed the least number of sacks in the Pac impressive fact given that Longshore is not very mobile
  • Longshore has been known to throw the ball to the other team (an interception per every 28 attempts vs per 49 attempts for Booty)
  • SC's defense has looked much better of late....the Trojans are playing more man to man defense and putting pressure on the QB. I like the way the defense looked against the Ducks...if the Trojans corners/safeties play that well again, I like USC's chances
  • Let hope Lojack continues his hot steak...if USC gets pressure with the front 4, it will be a long day for Cal
  • Of course, the Trojans cannot get too aggressive because Cal has feasted on big plays to Jackson as well as WRs Hawkins and Jordan. SC has excelled at taking away the deep ball with Pete at the helm...will Cal be satisfied to dink and dunk like they did in 2003?
  • I am most concerned with the playmaking of Jackson and Lynch catching the ball out of the backfield against our aggressive LBs (stay at home Rey!)
  • Cal has tended to get off to very fast starts, outscoring the opposition 108-33 in the first quarter and 118-67 in the second quarter vs 45-16 and 92-29 for the Trojans. The Trojans need to withstand the initial burst of Cal...ensuring no turnovers is critical here
  • One thing that will make a difference is the crowd. I think a raucous USC crowd will make it tough on Cal and inspire the Trojans...a fast start from Cal may take the crowd out of the game
  • DeSean Jackson has put a ton of pressure on himself to perform in this game....I would not be surprised if he made a mistake at the wrong time (personal foul, catching a punt inside the 10, etc)
  • Defensively Cal has been disappointing. Despite returning 8 starters from a good squad last year, Cal is ranked 10th in pass defense, 7th in run defense and 9th in total defense
  • However, the Bears do have some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball (CB Hughes, LB Bishop)...they lead the Pac 10 in turnovers forced and thus have been able to hold opponents to 20 pts per game (4th in the conference)
  • In addition, Cal is 2nd in the conference in 3rd down defense, allowing only a 30% conversion rate. This will be a key matchup as USC is ranked 1st in the conference in 3rd down conversion offense (48%)
  • Cal's defense has lived off of turnovers...interception in particular. Cal has 20 interceptions to lead the conference by a wide margin (14 is next). In addition, Cal DB Hughes leads the nation with 8 picks. If (big IF) Booty can avoid the interceptions....things will be looking up for the Trojans
  • Cal has put decent pressure on the QB this year (20 sacks in 10 games vs 21 sacks in 9 games for the Trojan D), but nothing spectacular
  • Cal's defense this year reminds me a bit of USC's defense last year...dangerous, but vulnerable
  • I think there is a real mismatch between the WRs of USC and the secondary of Cal. Hughes may be the best corner in the country, but he can only cover one guy. Cal also starts a RS frosh at the other corner and 2 inexperienced safeties
  • I think the Trojans come out throwing and may keep throwing....particularly given the sketchy health status of Chauncey Washington. Dont be surprised in 15 of the first 20 plays are passes. Expect a lot of 3 Wide, Single Back formations
  • I also fully expect Fred Davis to be heavily involved in the offense. I think the Trojans have kept him under wraps the last two weeks on purpose...he is a weapon that has not been on tape in a few weeks
  • Having said all that about the pass, Cal is vulnerable to the run giving up 3.9 yds per carry (vs 2.9 for USC)
  • I hope the Trojans do not punt the ball to Jackson....just kick it out of bounds. This is where the Trojans' offense is key...USC needs to move the ball so that when (if?) they punt, they can kick it through the endzone. If SC needs to punt from deep in their own territory, the USC defense will be in a tough spot

This is a huge game...winner clinches a birth in the Rose Bowl. Cal will play much better than they did against Oregon. Be loud and support the Trojans as they grind out another tough win.

Fight On!


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