After 28 days without a home game, the No. 9 USC Trojans return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for their homecoming game. The Trojans are eager to be back and continue to build their momentum in a matchup against Pac-12 opponent Cal.
Three weeks ago, the Trojans had an agonizing loss to Utah. After the bye week, USC moved full steam ahead against Arizona, winning 45-37. Now, they need to take advantage of a struggling Golden Bears team.
It has not been a great season for the Golden Bears as they sit toward the bottom of the Pac-12 with an overall record of 3-5. Some might say this is due to a tough schedule, facing Pac-12 powerhouse teams like No. 8 Oregon, previously ranked Washington and Notre Dame. However, Cal’s few wins have come against weaker teams like UC Davis and UNLV.
The offense led by redshirt senior quarterback Jack Plummer is by no means a standout offense. Plummer currently has thrown for 1,968 yards and has a completion average of 61.2%. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns this season with five interceptions. Their rushing yards leader, freshman running back Jaydn Ott, has 675 yards while junior wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter leads the team in receiving yards with 544 yards. The Golden Bears currently average 23.4 points per game.
In comparison, USC has a far superior offense. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams has thrown for 2,382 yards this season with a 64.7% completion rate. He also has 24 passing touchdowns compared to only one interception. Redshirt senior running back Travis Dye leads the team with 760 rushing yards, and junior wide receiver Jordan Addison leads the team in receiving yards with 585. The Trojans average 41 points per game.
The Golden Bears’ offense has not been able to find its footing this season, struggling to make a big offensive impact in games. USC’s offense definitely has the edge vs Cal’s defense. However, when it comes to the defense that is a different story.
The Cal defense has been able to hold opponents to low-scoring games. The defense kept all but two teams to under 30 points. While the defense is not necessarily one of the best in the country, if underestimated, the defense could be very difficult for the Trojans to beat.
The USC defense, on the other hand, has been especially struggling these past two games. Against Utah and Arizona, the defense struggled to make a stop on first downs and force punts.
Against Utah, the Trojan offense hung in with the Utes, going drive for drive, but the defense let the Utes rally in the fourth quarter and allowed them to score 15 points. This past Saturday in Arizona, the Trojan offense put on another prolific performance, but the defense let the Wildcats pick up 28 first downs – two more than the Trojans.
This Saturday will be a clash of opposites as the relentless Trojan offense goes against the Golden Bears’ potentially dangerous defense. For USC to ensure a victory, here are the Trojans’ three keys to the game.
The first key is that different wide receivers need to step up once again. With top receivers Addison and sophomore wide receiver Mario Williams out with injuries, others need to take charge. Last week, redshirt junior wide receivers Tahj Washington and Kyle Ford had outstanding performances to lead the Trojans to a win. They need to recreate their magic once again on Saturday.
Secondly, the defense needs to be 110% ready. The defense needs to make third-down stops and force punts. The Cal offense may not be phenomenal, but we have seen what happens when the USC defense underestimates a team. This defense needs to start off strong to get back on track.
Thirdly, Caleb Williams needs to be on point for all four quarters. It is crucial the star quarterback does not get overconfident and lose focus. Against Oregon State, Williams seemed to have underrated the Beavers and didn’t play like his usual self. Williams can’t make the same mistake again, or it may be costly. If USC can accomplish these three keys, the Trojans should be able to win comfortably.
The Trojans hope to make their homecoming a memorable one with another Pac-12 win on Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.