(Written by kencraw)
Cal hasn’t beaten USC since 2003 and frankly, haven’t come close in a long time. Until Dykes took over, the previous time the Bears kept it to a one score game was 2007. Between 2002 and 2007, Tedford had reasonable success trying to beat USC at their own game, pro-style power football. He only won one of those, but the Bears were competitive in all but one of them. After 2007, as the Tedford Bears started their decline, Tedford refused to try and beat them any other way and it got worse and worse and worse.
However, after the debacle in 2013, Dykes now has had two games in a row where he’s kept it reasonably close, sticking to his kind of game. However, the scores are a bit deceptive. Last year the Bears were down 7-24 and ended up putting up just enough points to get back in it. I never felt like the Bears were threatening to win. It was a similar story in 2014 with the Bears down 9-31 and 16-38 late and the best the Bears could do was to get it close late. Again, I never felt like the Bears were threatening.
Which brings us to this year. What is clear from the history of Cal vs. USC games is that two things need to happen for the Bears to win:
- Cal needs to win in the trenches
- Cal needs to start strong, leading early in the game
So, can they do that?
I actually think the Bears have a better chance in the trenches than in quite a while. The offensive line is gelling and can both open running lanes and protect the QB reasonably well. And while the defensive line has been a bit inconsistent, they’ve shown flashes of being pretty disruptive even against teams with pretty good offensive lines.
Starting strong will be the difficult part. A Thursday night game, during mid-terms, on 6 days rest, playing a team on twice the rest they’ve had, coming off two back-to-back (kinda, there was a bye in there) overtime games, all point to a difficult/slow/tired start. Add in that the LA Coliseum has been a very intimidating place for the Bears to begin with, and I’m just not feeling it.
I think there are two scenarios that are the likely ones:
- Cal is just too tired and gets blown off the ball, losing the game in the trenches, and loses horrifically.
- Cal has a slow start and can just never catch up.
Neither one results in a win. Bears lose in heart-breaking fashion: 23-38
(And here’s hoping my reverse prediction mojo keep working!)