You never know which team will take the field for UC Berkeley. Go ahead – ask any fan of the California Golden Bears how to characterize their squad – they probably couldn’t give you just one description.
The bad Bears opened up the season by falling flat on their faces against the University of Nevada. Head-manned by their second string quarterback because their starting quarterback didn’t meet his study requirements, the bad Bears’ offense was paralyzed and their defense was porous.
The bad Bears showed up again in their Week 2 mismatch with Southern Utah University. A friend of mine who had pregame field access described the Bears’ warmups as flat and uninspired. One Cal player mentioned that they were going to “kill these guys.” They should have destroyed them; the game was much closer than it should have been.
Then there are the good Bears. The good Bears are the ones that showed up in Columbus and battled Ohio State. Heavy underdogs on the road after two ugly performances, they should have gotten pushed around. They outplayed the Buckeyes and, had it not been for Vincenzo D’Amato’s three missed field goals, would have won.
Now Cal travels to Southern California to take on the Trojans, hot off of an upset loss to Stanford. Both squads will be looking to rebound. Which Bears team will show up?
The good Bears
The good Bears might show up because this is exactly the type of game they come around for. Just look at their loss to Ohio State – the good Bears love exceeding expectations as an underdog. They are inspired by more talented competition. They play to their opponent’s level. If Cal can harness the same edge that they had in Columbus and use it on the Trojans, they stand a chance of winning, or at least making it close.
The bad Bears
Nobody likes a moral victory, and that’s exactly what Cal boarded the plane with last Saturday. The Bears have thrived on winning games over inferior opponents in the last few years – they’ve always done well versus the weaker Pac-12 teams while failing to be competitive with teams like Oregon. There’s a reason why the Bears are unranked and nowhere near national respectability yet. To be the best you have to beat the best, and Cal hasn’t done that since Aaron Rodgers was their quarterback.
The ugly Bears
This is the team that will likely show up on Saturday. USC dropped an unprecedented nine spots in the AP polls after their loss to Stanford. They will be trying to make their way back into the national title picture by way of beating up on the Bears. Although the chance to play spoiler to the evil empire down south should be a good motivational tool, Cal’s history against USC casts doubt on their chances.
2003 was the last time that Cal beat USC. Since that win, Cal has only come close to beating USC twice, in 2004 (23-17) and 2007 (24-17). The average score in these battles since Cal’s last win: USC 28.8, Cal 10.3. USC beat Cal 30-9 last season, and now, with National Championship hopes on the line for the Trojans, it’s hard to make an argument for Cal bucking that trend.
— It appears that Lane Kiffin likes to give an injury report about as much as Jim Harbaugh does. Hilarious, sure, but it doesn’t make injury news any easier to find.
— Luckily, I found some. It looks like Abe Markowitz could step in at center for USC with freshman Cyrus Hobbi struggling. Running back Silas Redd came back into the Stanford game late after suffering an injury, so he’ll probably play against the Bears.
— The Trojans’ left tackle position appears up for grabs after Aundrey Walker struggled with the Cardinal defense. Walker has been sharing reps with freshman Max Tuerk this week. It’s unknown who will start at that position.
— Cal escaped their loss to Ohio State virtually unscathed and their injury report is on the up and up. Tight end Richard Rodgers, tackle Matt Summers-Gavin and linebacker Khairi Fortt may all return to the lineup this week.