For a team that has had few moments worth cheering about, last week was undoubtedly encouraging for the Cal Bears, who came within five points of knocking off an Arizona team that was expected to roll easily. This week, the task is equally tough, but comes with additional motivation — another clearly better team is coming to town in interstate rival USC.
The Trojans, previously thought to be down, are clearly not out — they have looked invigorated under Ed Orgeron, and could be creeping their way back into Pac-12 contention. To stay there, they will need to win their ninth straight game in this rivalry. USC will not only have to overcome the Golden Bears, but also a storm of injuries that has swept through the Trojans' depth chart.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked or leading its respective division, but the Trojans are certainly closer to both. USC has a 65-29-5 record in the rivalry and sits just one game out of first in the Pac-12 South, while the Cal Bears dwell in the cellar of the North.
Vegas: USC opened as a 17-point favorite. OddsShark has all the details on the matchup.
Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 65 for noon at Memorial Stadium.
Three names to know
Marqise Lee (USC wide receiver) — Is the preseason favorite for the Biletnikoff back? Lee has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury all season, but looked very healthy in last week's win over Oregon State, reeling in five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. He also has the benefit of Lane Kiffin no longer calling the plays, which has to help somewhat.
Daniel Lasco (California running back) — The Bears have had a rotating door in their backfield all year long, but the redshirt sophomore now appears ready to take over. In his first action since separating his shoulder, Lasco had a clean 71 yards on 12 carries, one of the best individual outputs by any Cal running back this season.
Khairi Fortt (California linebacker) — Named a semi-finalist for the Butkus award, Fortt has been one of the few bright spots in a very bad Cal defense. The Penn State transfer leads the team in tackles with 64, with 3.5 of those going for loss as well.
Two things at stake
The Bears are still looking for an FBS conference win of any kind, and haven't had one since late last season. Getting it here against hated rival USC — a team to which they have lost eight in a row — would be a highlight in a dreadful first season for Sonny Dykes.
The Trojans could still win the Pac-12 South, although they'll need a little bit of help to do it — beating UCLA later this year would be a boost, but having already lost to ASU earlier means that the Sun Devils will have to drop one if USC is to go to the conference championship game. Southern Cal's slim hopes of the conference title would be virtually nil with a loss Saturday.
How to witness
TV: 3 p.m. ET on FOX (noon PT)
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