Jayce Kamin-Oncea - USA Today Sports
The Trojans of Southern California ride up to Cal for a 12:30 start on national TV Saturday, in a matchup of undefeated teams. USC comes in after a double overtime victory over Texas. The fifth ranked Trojans open Pac-12 play at Cal, the first they've played in September in Berkeley since September 27th, 2003, during Justin Wilcox's first year as Cal's linebacker coach.
USC comes in off wins over Western Michigan, Stanford, and Texas, an unexpectedly close game that went into double overtime, as walk-on kicker Chase McGrath kicked the game winning 43 yard field goal to end it.
That all being said, there's a lot just on the surface for the Trojans
203.3 and 5.1 - rushing yards per game and per carry for USC. There's a lot of things you can say about Sam Darnold, and he's probably the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft should he decide to declare. He does have some tremendously talented running backs in Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr. Jones burned Cal last year on a number of occasions in the Coliseum, and has continued with 5 TDs and 5.5 yards per carry. Carr, a true freshman, looks extremely agile making his cuts, and is averaging 8 yards a carry. This is a true test for Devante Downs and the linebacker group, making tackles against a physically sound group up front.
6 - Number of interceptions Darnold has thrown. This number has a caveat to it. One of these was off the hands of his receiver against Texas, but Darnold's already two-thirds of the way to his 2017 interception total of 9. He's still completing two-thirds of his passes and averaging 334 yards a game (just under 10 yards per attempt as well)
3 - Number of sacks from linebacker Porter Gustin, who has the team lead, and who might be out for the weekend. He's listed as having an issue with his biceps, and was spelled by Connor Murphy and Oluwole Betiku
5 - Number of defensive starters out during the second half of the Texas game. In addition to Gustin, Cameron Smith, and Rasheem Green went out of the game due to injury, while Marlon Tuipulotu and John Houston did not play. Of these, Green and Smith will be playing Saturday, while the rest are questionable
7 - Pass Breakups by OLB Uchenna Nwosu, a quick 6'2", 240 lb rush linebacker who has a knack for batting down passes. Corner Iman Marshall has 4. Cal's leader at the category is Cam Bynum with 3.
16.1 - Yards per catch by Deontay Burnett, who has emerged as the strongest target for USC, with 24 catches to his name so far. After being challenged by a big group of wideouts a week ago, Burnett provides a different sort of challenge, as a 6', 170 lb wideout with fantastic athleticism. Steven Mitchell has been the other big threat at wideout as well.
5 - Number of upperclassmen projected to start on the offensive line for the Trojans, though depending on the health of Chuma Edoga at RT, that can change. It's a strong group with experience and size, one that did struggle against Texas when the Longhorns slanted and used twists, something the Bears are very good at.
56% - USC's 3rd down conversion percentage
36% - USC's Opponents 3rd down conversion percentage. The Trojans are good at creating manageable 3rd down situations for themselves, while limiting them for the other side, getting other teams behind the chains early.
5 - Turnovers forced by USC, leading to 7 points, a low number for the Trojans.
0-0 - USC's record on the road, as they haven't played a game outside of the Coliseum.