Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

Just Sayin' . . . Cal Week

It's a short week from now until the Cal game Thursday and yet plenty of time to talk. Here's some of what everyone's saying.

Cal's Bears are an example of how you just never know in college football. Who'd have thought a team that lost its three-year quarterback as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft could show up at the Coliseum this week (7:30 Thursday, ESPN) with a better quarterback?

We're Just Sayin'.

But in grad student transfer Davis Webb, a 6-foot-5 former Texas Tech player Cal trusts to change the plays and the routes as he sees fit, just may be more of a threat to USC than that No. 1 pick, and Rams bench-sitter, Jared Goff was. "Ultra-talented," Clay Helton called him after Sunday's full-pads practice. There's much respect here for a re-worked Cal program, 4-3 this year (2-2 in the Pac-12) that hasn't beaten USC since 2003.

*** But the respect doesn't sound all that mutual. Cal senior starter at offensive guard, Chris Borrayo, who grew up and played high school football at nearby Paramount, doesn't feel that way. "I had no idea USC was a thing," Borrayo said Sunday, describing himself as a Mexican-American who played soccer first. But at 290 pounds, he grew into a college football player who got his first taste of USC as a freshman on the short end of a 62-28 "[butt]-kicking," he called it. "Ever since then, the goal, every week when we play USC, is to make sure to beat the crap out of them, or die trying. It was a pretty nasty game, my freshman year, and those guys, I don't know if you guys understand anything about USC, but class is not in their name. It's just something important to me, and something that's very important to our team . . . I want to beat the crap out of USC." So this could get, or maybe already is, ugly . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And while Clay couldn't say enough positive stuff about Cal, Bears coach Sonny Dykes had this to say about how the USC defense might play the suddenly run-oriented Cal offense: "They're a different team against the run than Oregon is," he said Sunday comparing USC to an Oregon team that is 127th against the run, one above dead-last in the country . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But Sonny is mostly complaining about USC having a bye week against Cal's short week. Now of course, Cal just came off a bye week before beating Oregon Friday. And USC has already had its short- and travel week problems as a scheduling gift from the Pac-12 when it had to go to Utah and play six days after playing Stanford on the road . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But here's a math tip for Sonny. USC last played Saturday, October 15, in Tucson. The Cal game is Thursday, Oct. 27. That does not give USC, as Sonny has said a number of times, "13 days to get ready." Do the math, Sonny. Take your shoes off if you have to. Thirteen days off is how long Cal had the last two weeks to get ready for Oregon . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Although after setting an NCAA record by running 118 plays against Oregon, you can see why an uptempo team like Cal might want as much time to rest as they can get . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But enough about Cal. A well-rested USC team should be pretty much healed up except for Justin Davis whose high-ankle sprain makes him "50-50 at best" and realistically much less than that to even suit up. Look for him against Oregon Saturday a week from now . . . Just Sayin'.

*** If Sunday's full-pads practice is any indication, the bounce is back in the Trojans' steps and with a complaining Cal coming in on a short travel week, that should be all to USC's advantage . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Also to USC's advantage, Clay said, was the chance to watch USC's next two opponents playing one another last Friday, something Clay did on his phone while recruiting in Arizona before flying home and immediately putting on the game he'd Tivo'ed so he could see all of it. "It was wonderful," Clay said of the one-stop scouting shot . . . Just Sayin'

*** One thing that didn't turn out so well in his weekend watching, Clay admitted, was keeping up with the scores of the top two teams in the Pac-12 South -- Utah and Colorado -- who both escaped despite Clay "cheering for their opponents." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So the realization for Clay is simply this. Forget what others might do. "It's just us," Clay says. "We have to win out and you're 7-2 and that's won the league every year." Now that's good math. Exactly right . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But as much as the talk was of a solidified offensive line anchored by left tackle Chad Wheeler, "playing the best football of his life," Clay says, or a trio of young running backs -- Ronald Jones, Aca'cedric Ware and Dominic Davis -- Clay says he has complete confidence in this week, the talk as it so often does centered on redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, who has led USC's resurgence the last three straight wins . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton was describing the qualities he sees in Sam that make him special. And he doesn't need mathematical analytics to describe them. "He has what I call big vision," Tyson says. "Where most quarterbacks get to the third progression and then take off and run, he sees it all . . . he's a special player . . . he's fun to be around . . . he allows us to be creative." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** There was more. Tyson said that with Max Browne starting the first three games, "he did a good job and we tried to play to his strengths" but with Sam, the difference is "you can play the whole field." Nothing is off-limits. It's all in play . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The crucial quality the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Sam has, even more than the quick thinking, quick and strong, accurate arm and quick feet are "the fastest hands I've ever seen," Tyson says. "He gets the ball out so fast . . .the hands are what make all the difference . . . even with an unblocked defensive end, the ball comes out so fast they can't even react." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And "with more reps, he just gets more and more accurate," Tyson says. But that's not all. There's something else. "What you tell him, he does. And don't let that nice-guy image fool you. He's highly competitive. He can get angry but he expresses it in the right way."  . . . Just Sayin'.

*** At the Utah game, Sam's first start, Tyson remembers telling Sam how "this is your team." So what was Sam's response? "Yes, sir," he told Tyson, who nodded. "He makes the team better, he makes the coaches better, he makes our secretary better." . . . Just Sayin'.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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