The USC Trojans will head up to the bay area to take on the California Golden Bears. USC comes into the game after a 31-26 win over Arizona State. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over the Sun Devils, while Cal is coming off a 33-20 win over Washington State. Here are some x-factors for USC against Cal.
USC X-Factor Players That Must Step Up Against Cal
USC must be able to run the ball against Cal’s defense. The Bears secondary is legit; they only give up 234 passing yards per game. But USC’s receiving corps is no joke either, so it should be a fun matchup to watch.
Cal’s defense gives up 144 rushing yards per game, so it would be wise for USC to try and establish a run game. You can not get one dimensional with a defense like Cal’s.
Unfortunately, USC has suffered a lot of injuries at running back position. Stephan Carr and Vavae Malepeai both could be back after missing a handful of games; they both warmed up with the team last week but did not play.
Malepeai leads USC in rushing with 406 yards, and Carr has 266 yards on the season. He also has caught 16 passes for 114 yards.
If Carr and Malepeai can’t go, it will fall on freshman running back Kenan Christon to carry the load. Last week against Arizona State, Christon rushed for 62 yards on 20 carries, but also caught four passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for his efforts. On the season he has 320 rushing yards.
It is crucial to establish the run because it will open up the play-action passing game with the USC receiving corps that would lead to big plays down the field.
The Trojans will have to look for Cal’s middle linebacker Evan Weaver; he leads the team in tackles with 136 and is one of the top linebackers in the nation.
John Houston, Jr.
Cal’s offense thrives on running the football. Their passing offense has not been good ever since their QB Chase Garbers was lost to injury, however, he has been cleared to play and could start against the Trojans.
Whether Garbers is under center or not, look for Cal to try and run the ball often with running back Christopher Brown Jr. He leads the team in rushing with 599 yards, and USC gives up 170 rushing yards per game. Although, the rush defense has improved substantially over the past couple of games.
Against Arizona State, USC held running back Eno Benjamin to a paltry 50 yards on 20 carries. The improvement has been due in a large part to linebacker John Houston Jr. He leads USC in tackles with 88 and has 6.5 tackles for a loss. Houston will need to play well in this game to slow down Brown and Cal’s rushing offense. Look for the Trojans to play a lot of eight-man fronts to stop Cal’s rushing offense, forcing them to try and beat them with the pass.