Saturday, November 8, 2008

#16 California (4-1, 6-2) @ #7 USC (5-1, 7-1)


USC is playing like a Pac-10 Champion – six weeks after dropping its conference opener, the Trojans have dominated for the most part, winning five straight by a 207 to 27 margin. They always heat up in November (24 straight wins), so it’s going to be a tough fight for anyone to hand them a second blemish to their record from here on out. That’s just what the Golden Bears aim to do this weekend at the Coliseum. California is one of several teams deadlocked and looking for a shot at wresting the conference title from USC.

Marc Sanchez leads the Pac-10 with 22 touchdown passes, 1,884 yards and a 163.3 passer rating. Any one of USC’s stable of running backs could get hot, making it hard for opponents to game plan. The defense has also been stifling, only allowing 211 yards and one touchdown per game.

At press time, California coach Jeff Tedford has still not named a starter at quarterback. It is unclear whether sophomore Kevin Riley will be healthy enough to play or if senior Nate Longshore will get the nod. Riley tends to protect the ball a little better and that would be key against an opportunistic USC pass defense, even without safety Kevin Ellison.

Sophomore running back Jahvid Best has played well since returning from injury, showing the ability to break long runs and find the end zone. Best will have his work cut out for him against the usually tough USC run defense.

As is the case nearly every week, this is a critical game and will either give the Trojans another leg up on the rest of the conference or close ranks a little more and make things even foggier in the Pac-10.

Photo Credit: Collegiate Images