Thursday, November 16, 2006

KEY MATCHUPS - CALIFORNIA v USC

Alex Mack and Byron Storer v Rey Maualuga. Cal's running game hinges on this matchup. Maualuga is a premier run stopper who didn't practice Tuesday because of a sore knee. Mack is a good center who can occasionally struggle with quicker inside backers. Storer is the best blocking fullback in the conference, and he will need to bring his A game Saturday.

Our Safeties v Their Wideouts. When Cal is in zone, Hicks and Hampton must make good reads and provide help where needed on Smith and Jarrett. If these guys can generate one takeaway between them, it's a very good sign. They must also swarm to the football and limit yards after contact on SC's receiver screens and slants.

Nu'u Tafisi & Abu Ma'afala v John David Booty. Booty is very effective on rollouts to this throwing side, but can roll either direction. Our defensive ends must prevent keep him in the pocket and force him to throw more quickly than he'd like.

Brandon Mebane v Drew Radovich. USC wants to play keep away from Cal to limit our big-play threats. I'm assuming they won't throw it 40+ times, so they can only control the football if they run the ball effectively on first or second down. They can only do that if All-American center Ryan Kalil is free to knock Desmond Bishop around. And Kalil will only be free if Radovich can handle Mebane with a minimum of help on running plays inside the tackle. If Mebane can generate penetration and demand a constant double team, then Bishop will be freed up to seek and destroy. SC's fullback of the week won't be able to control our MLB.

Pete Carroll v Himself. Bear with me here. Carroll is a great coach, and I've never developed the antipathy for him that I have for Bellotti or that I had for Dennis Erickson. But Pete's fault - if he has one - is that he can be hyper-aggressive on 4th down. He needs to put more faith in his kicking game on Saturday, because 4th down stops are essentially turnovers that put the ball back into the hands of Cal's playmakers.

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