USC is riding high after upsetting Oregon State, but the Trojans would be wise not to look past struggling California. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the story lines:
Back in Strawberry Canyon
USC has not played at Memorial Stadium since 2009, when the Trojans defeated Cal, 30-3, marking the first time since 1998 that Cal was held without a touchdown at home.
In 2011, with Memorial Stadium undergoing renovation, the Trojans defeated the Golden Bears, 30-9, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
USC is 33-13-1 against Cal in Bay Area games.
USC's Cody Kessler is a third-year sophomore, Cal's Jared Goff is a freshman — but both quarterbacks have started the same number of college games.
Kessler has completed 63% of his passes, 10 for touchdowns, with six interceptions. Last week against Oregon State, Kessler shook off an interception that was returned for a score-tying touchdown and guided the Trojans to victory.
"That's just for me, personally, just growing up and learning the position better and not putting so much pressure on myself to where I feel I can't make a mistake or I have to be great every play," Kessler said. "Learning from my mistake instead of beating myself up over it."
Goff, in Coach Sonny Dykes' pass-happy spread offense, has completed 60% of his passes, 14 for touchdowns, with nine interceptions.
USC began the season with Tre Madden and Justin Davis getting most of the carries. Davis suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Notre Dame and Madden is out indefinitely because of a hamstring injury.
The Trojans' tailback depth was evident last week when senior Silas Redd, back from knee surgery, rushed for 140 yards and sophomore Javorius Allen rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns.
Cal's Khalfani Muhammad, a freshman who played at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High, has averaged 5.3 yards a carry and rushed for two touchdowns. The sprint star also has 10 receptions, one for a touchdown.
Better to receive
There were times this season when receivers coach Tee Martin ran drills with one scholarship receiver and a long line of walk-ons.
That changed this week as Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers, De'Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell all put injuries behind them. They are no doubt looking forward to facing a Cal defense that gives up 340.9 yards passing per game, the most in major college football.
Cal's receiving corps has a local flavor. Sophomore Chris Harper, out of Encino Crespi, has 62 receptions, five for touchdowns. Sophomore Bryce Treggs, who played at Bellflower St. John Bosco, has 61 catches, one for a touchdown. Freshman Kenny Lawler, who played at Upland High, caught three touchdown passes last week against Arizona.
USC senior right tackle Kevin Graf is expected to return from the ankle injury that forced him to sit out against Oregon State. If he does, Max Tuerk will return to left guard. But it remains to be seen whether John Martinez will move back to right guard or Aundrey Walker will remain at that spot. Interim Coach Ed Orgeron said last week that Walker played his best game against Oregon State.
USC has given up 22 sacks. Cal has recorded 16 sacks. The Golden Bears' defense is led by linebacker Khairi Fortt, who played with Redd at Penn State, and linebacker Hardy Nickerson.
USC defensive end Leonard Williams might be held out because of a shoulder injury. The sophomore from Florida leads USC in tackles and tackles for loss.
USC has 29 sacks. Cal's offensive line has given up 27 sacks.
USC ranks tied for 12th nationally with 13 interceptions. The Trojans have picked off three passes in each of the last two games. Freshman safety Su'a Cravens will return against Cal after sitting out against Oregon State because of a groin injury suffered during an interception return against Utah.
Cal has only four interceptions.
Twitter: @latimeskleinCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun