The Cal and Southern Cal football teams both lost by seven points on Saturday, but the results were really very different.
Cal (1-2) played by far its best game of the season in a 35-28 loss to then-No. 12 Ohio State, nearly pulling off a major upset on the road. Certainly, the inability to finish off an opponent it outplayed left some scars, but the Bears must now feel they are capable of beating the Trojans, even on the road Saturday, especially after seeing that USC is vulnerable.
“It’s definitely going to help us a lot,” Cal receiver Kennan Allen said of the Ohio State game. “It’s going to give us a lot of confidence for our next game at USC.”
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard played the best game of his career against the Buckeyes, and although he has yet to prove he can consistently play at a high level, he certainly demonstrated he is capable of it.
The emergence of Cal tailback Brendan Bigelow as a big-play threat adds a dimension to the Golden Bears’ offense. Bigelow ran for 160 yards against Ohio State on just four carries, busting off TD runs of 81 and 59 yards.
On the downside, the Golden Bears are allowing 32.3 points per game and will need a sharp turnaround to silence No. 13 USC’s offensive weaponry.
The Trojans will be trying to regroup emotionally after a terribly disappointing 21-14 loss to Stanford that severely damaged USC’s hopes of playing for the national championship.
The Trojans were blanked over the final 40-plus minutes, a stunning development with all the offensive firepower on the roster.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley didn’t play like a projected No. 1 overall NFL pick in the loss to Stanford. Barkley was intercepted twice while passing for 254 yards and no touchdowns.
Getting the running attack going will be crucial after Stanford held the Trojans to 26 yards on the ground.
The Golden Bears have lost eight straight games to USC, including the past three in which Barkley had big-time games. Upsetting the Trojans in the 100th meeting between the two schools would be big for Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who is just 13-15 since the start of the 2010 campaign.
Despite last week’s performances, USC is still favored by 16 points over Cal. But a game that seemed like a mismatch just a week earlier now may seem like a game in which Cal could at least be competitive.