Five Things: USC
Weird week for Five Things, in which all Five Things showed themselves in the first two minutes of the game:
1) Takers - The second play of the game was an interception, and while the amount of yardage given up was high, the ultimate goal is to not allow any points. This group did that perfectly. W
2) Bye Week Prep - For once, we actually looked good given the extra time. Some of that was due to returning players, but some of it was just the presence of a coherent offensive gameplan. W
3) Chris Brown Jr. - Two touchdowns, some explosive plays, looked generally good. Gotta improve in between those explosives, though. W
4) Special Teams - See, I wasn't joking when I said everything happened in the first two minutes. Cal had an extra point blocked that was kind of an omen for how the unit played. L
5) Play Like It Matters - Yup. W
1) Takers - Vaughns. Pittman. St. Brown.
Hawkins. Davis. Bynum. Hicks.
Granted, that's a reductive way of looking at it, with more players destined to factor than just those seven -- Josh Drayden, Traveon Beck, and Trey Turner, on the Cal side, for example; freshman running back Kenan Christon, on the USC one, if last week is to be believed --
But at the end of the day, it's a matchup of 3 of the conference's 8 top receivers in yards per game, versus the conference's 4th ranked passing defense by yards per game, but one that's only allowed 9 touchdowns so far.
Something's gotta give here. It's strength on strength.
2) Pressure Kedon Slovis - This is different than point #1, because this is an objective, not a matchup to watch -- whereas the above unit will once again be put to the test, and for the final time this season (because neither of the Stanford nor the UCLA receiving corps should intimidate nearly as much as this one does), your chance of winning the First Thing is compounded based on whether or not you win This Second Thing. Utah, whose secondary is fairly comparable to Cal, did a poor job of actually getting to Fink, which allowed him to simply loft it up to the guys above. I'm guessing the coaches will make this a point of emphasis throughout the week. Don't let them get that chance.
3) QB - After Devon Modster played pretty well last week, the news of Chase Garbers getting medical clearance was an unexpected bonus. That, of course, is not without its own dilemmas -- do you risk it on a possibly rusty, rushed Chase Garbers, or let the momentum of Modster roll on? (For my money, if he's 100% healthy, I'd play Chase Garbers. If he's any less than that, then go with Modster, with Garbers in reserve if the game gets hairy. Still, his odds for being 100% healthy seem good for Big Game or UCLA. Fiat vitae indeed.)
4) Drake Jackson - The true freshman leads USC in sacks, TFLs, and has been raved about by coaches from the moment he got on campus last spring. Saffell led a much improved offensive line performance against WSU, and they'll need another against Jackson to continue the winning streak. This, in turn, is another reason why they might want to play Modster -- as the healthier of the two QBs at the moment, you'd prefer to keep him as safe as possible.
5) Keep It Going - Once again, not being John Madden here with non-analysis. Rather, the mindset that was flashed, the playcalling adjustments and cohesive gameplan given by the offensive staff...the goal is for both of those to continue, regardless of how long those qualities took to finally arrive. It's the last home game of the season. It's Jared Goff bobblehead day.
The least we can do is honor his memory by doing what he never got a chance to do. (I still have nightmares of them whiffing two tackles to get him a final drive.)