Could Farmer play against Cal?

It now sounds as if USC receiver-turned-tailback George Farmer isn't a lock to redshirt, as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin had said as recently as earlier this week.

Farmer, the highly-touted subject of this week's Trojans Beat, has impressed the USC coaching staff so much since moving to the backfield last week that it's now a possibility he could play this season after all.

“We’ve got to look at it this week and see where we’re at now that he’s fully healthy and he’s doing some good things out here," Kiffin said Friday, after another USC practice in which Farmer shined and took extra reps at running back afterward. "So we’ll spend the week to figure that out.”

It's not a promise he'll play, but it sounds like a seriously considered change. It also carries a lot of meaning for the rest of the USC offense -- especially two young running backs, freshman Amir Carlisle and sophomore Dillon Baxter.

Carlisle returned to practice Friday from an ankle injury, but the role Kiffin sees Farmer as fulfilling is very similar to the one he two weeks ago thought Carlisle could fulfill. And for Baxter, the shifty, agile back who was supposed to be USC's game-breaker this season, it's a clear indictment of his status in Kiffin's doghouse.

A better answer to the question of whether Farmer will receive playing time next week will come Sunday and Monday, during the Trojans' second and third game-week practices. With the game on Thursday in San Francisco, everything's moved forward two days, so the staff's decision should be fairly clear by Monday.

And it'll be about as final as midseason decisions get. Burning Farmer's redshirt year halfway into the season is already grounds for fan complaints -- waiting even longer to do it is akin to asking for a fan revolt, especially with a player of Farmer's stature.

In other words, he'll play against Cal, or he won't play at all.