Desperation in Strawberry Canyon
October, 3, 2009
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
BERKELEY, Calif. -- It's a beautiful day in the Bay Area, but the sun will set in more ways than one by the time this one is over.
That's not to say that if No. 7 USC or No. 24 California limps away with a second Pac-10 defeat that the loser's season is over -- or the winner's is made -- but it probably will feel like it.
Both teams have a lot to lose.
USC hasn't been as bad as 1-2 in conference play since Pete Carroll lost his first three Pac-10 games in 2001. A loss likely would relegate the Trojans to the bottom half of the national rankings and folks would start talking about a rebuilding season and Sun Bowl berths.
Cal, though, would go from No. 6 in the land two weeks ago to unranked. Another season of high expectations doused by a bucket of disappointment.
Not to mention the Bears would do so in front of their already frustrated fans.
Cal seems to face more challenges, both physically and emotionally.
The Bears will not be able to just hand the ball off to Jahvid Best and, well, hope for the best. Quarterback Kevin Riley, after reverting to his inconsistent 2008 for at Oregon, needs to rediscover his passing rhythm. He's got to force the Trojan defense to respect the pass.
Oregon loaded the box and it worked. USC doesn't typically do that because it doesn't need to -- it ranks fifth in the country in run defense playing things fairly straight.
As for the Trojans, they may be particularly united behind notion of winning for injured running back Stafon Johnson, who dropped a 275-pound bar on his neck while doing bench press this week and nearly died.
He's done for the season, and his teammates likely want to send him an inspiring get-well message.
Will that message come through more downfield throws from true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley? The shoulder injury that knocked him out of the loss at Washington is nearly healed, and the playbook seemed to open up a bit last week in the easy win over Washington State.
The Cal defense, which had been stout early, was whipped in every way by Oregon. They'll be looking for redemption against an offense that is far saltier at just about every position than the Ducks, other than QB.
The winner in Strawberry Canyon will reintroduce itself into the Pac-10 and national picture.
The loser? It will be scrambling to save its season.
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State