Four Downs: California

Keeping Matt Barkley upright so he can utilize his three standout weapons from Gardena (Calif.) Serra will be among the keys to a USC victory over California.

-Stifle Sofele
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford has almost always been able to cobble together an effective running game against USC, the main reason the Bears were always a thorn in Pete Carroll's side.

With junior running back Isi Sofele averaging just under 100 yards rushing per game, that potential will be there again. But if the Trojans can limit the undersized Sofele and force quarterback Zach Maynard into obvious passing situations where they can turn loose the pass rush, the staggering defense should find its footing.

But if they allow a repeat of their Arizona State showing, allowing 169 yards and three touchdowns in Tempe, it will open up play action opportunities to Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. Those two have 19 receptions of 20 yards or longer this year, including five touchdowns.

-Unleash The Three Musketeers
Okay, the mascot for Gardena (Calif.) Serra is actually the Cavaliers, but go with the premise for a moment.

Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are well on their way to forming the most dynamic tandem of receivers in the Pac-12, and another Serra standout, George Farmer, could be unleashed this week.

The decision to move Farmer to running back has been a controversial one, but his sheer athleticism might be enough to overcome his lack of experience at the position.

Even if he can't get on track, Lee and Woods should be able to exploit a weak Cal secondary that could be starting a true freshman corner in Stefan McClure because of injury.

-Keep Barkley Upright
As productive as the Serra to USC pipeline has been these past two seasons, it can't happen unless quarterback Matt Barkley has the necessary time to operate. Pass protection broke down in the fourth quarter against the Sun Devils, leading to two critical turnovers.

With a deep rotation in the front seven at its disposal, Cal will use its 3-4 defense to try and confuse the offensive line into those same sorts of mistakes. Given the issues in the secondary, expect defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to rely on all sorts of exotic looks and blitzes to try and hurry Barkley into bad throws.

Given Barkley's track record against Cal (635 yards, five touchdowns, one interception on 45 of 72 passing in two previous meetings), pressure might be the only way to slow him down. The Bears have 14 sacks this season, but only three in their conference losses. Washington and Oregon were able to capitalize, with 490 yards passing and six touchdowns against one interception.

-Dominate Third Down
Even after a disastrous 1 for 9 showing at Arizona State, the Trojans are a white hot 50 percent on third down this season.

Every time they extend drives, it keeps the suspect defense off the field. It also gives the dynamic passing attack more chances to put up touchdowns, as Barkley already has 14 scoring throws.

With Cal likely to try and take the air out of the ball with a steady dose of Sofele and Maynard runs, USC must maximize every possession it is presented. Top Stories