Lane Kiffin caught Cal's 43-15 loss to Oregon in Eugene last night as it happened and offered his thoughts on the Bears' performance after USC's Friday practice.
He clearly found it hard not to draw similarities -- tacitly, of course -- to USC's own 53-32 loss to the Ducks last season at the Coliseum, when the Trojans led 17-15 in the second quarter and 32-29 in the third before the roof caved in on them late.
"I thought they played great through the half and into the third quarter," Kiffin said of Jeff Tedford's Bears, who led 15-14 at halftime. "Obviously a tough environment to play versus a very explosive offense and what happened is what happens in most Oregon games over the last couple years.
"Somehow Oregon gets stronger as the game goes in the second half, especially on defense. As you go back to last year, so few points given up in the fourth quarter on defense. They do a great job. And they've done a great job at recruiting depth so they play a bunch of players. If you start taking off their reps, they get a ton of guys in their on offense and on defense and so obviously that contributes to what they're able to do late in the third and the fourth quarter."
But USC doesn't play Oregon for another month and a half, and the Trojans play Cal in six days. So what'd he pick up from the Bears? Cal's known weakness is its secondary, but, in again bringing up USC's own performances last season, Kiffin implied that it wasn't as much of one as most have said so far this year.
"I don't know," Kiffin said. "Last year they were way up there in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. It happens in cycles, when you lose some players, and it's hard to come back from a game, kind of like what we had early, with the Hawaii game, the numbers were so lopsided your stats-it takes a little while to come back down from that.
"So their Colorado game really screwed up their passing stats but they're doing a great job against the run, for the most part. They're very physical up front. The safeties tackle well."
The other big factor in the lead-up to Thursday's Cal-USC game will be rest. With a bye this week, the Trojans are supposed to have more players healthy than the Bears, and that will probably be true.
Of course, USC had a bye before Oregon last year, and that didn't mean much, and the Trojans nearly lost to Notre Dame after a bye in October 2009. So a bye the week before a game doesn't necessarily equal a win.
"You'd like to think it is," Kiffin said. "You'd like to think that we have a little bit more time to rest and you know we've had days now where we've been preparing for this. So where they're landing last night probably at three in the morning, getting back [where] we already have our first and second down [practice] done.
"But we'll see. You never know. There's a reason that everyone doesn't win every game off a bye. Just because you have more time doesn't make you win the game but it's good to have."