Cal needs USC mistakes; Trojans need style points

November, 8, 2008
11/08/08
6:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- It's raining here just like last weekend at California. Raining sunshine!

Weather will not be a factor.

What will?

Just looking over the two teams depth charts, it seems that California's best -- perhaps only chance -- is decisively winning the turnover battle. Or, at least, winning it like the Bears did last week against Oregon, when Ducks turnovers were catastrophic, accounting for 16 of the Bears 26 points.

That means Cal quarterback Nate Longshore, who will start over the injured Kevin Riley (concussion), will need to play flawlessly, something he rarely does.

That means the Bears defense, which leads the nation with 17 interceptions, needs to rattle USC's Mark Sanchez, who is nursing a tweaked ankle.

There is no way Cal consistently moves the ball on the USC defense. But that doesn't mean it can't be opportunistic and take a few shots downfield and see if it can get Jahvid Best into open space and let him get creative.

Speaking of creative: Might Jeff Tedford have a few trick plays up his sleave? That used to be one of his staples.

Perhaps the Trojans defense will show a weakness with the absence of safety Kevin Ellison, the unit's glue player?

And what if the star-crossed Longshore finds some fairy dust and turns in a dynamic performance -- the sort many expected to see from him on a regular basis after he threw for 3,000 yards as a sophomore?

If that happens, and he leads the upset, the Bears would then be three wins away from their first Rose Bowl berth since 1959.

As for USC, the Trojans have played in four Rose Bowls in five years after winning six consecutive Pac-10 titles. They actually are still eyeballing a trip to Miami.

That's a longshot hope. To make it less long, though, they're going to have to notch some style points.

That means laying a whipping on the Bears.

That's not beyond the realm of possibility. Since losing 27-21 at Oregon State, USC has won five in a row by the count of 214-20. Even with a couple of patsies in that slate, that's pretty darn extraordinary.

With Penn State losing today and Alabama on the ropes, the door may be open a crack.

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