BERKELEY, Calif. – USC clinched bowl game eligibility last weekend with a hold-your-breath, 31-26 victory at Arizona State that turned down the heat slightly on head coach Clay Helton's future. The Trojans, who still have their sights set on a possible Pac-12 South title, play their final road game of the season Saturday night when they travel to California.
TV: 11 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: USC -6.5
USC trails No. 9 Utah by a half-game in the South Division but holds the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of a 30-23 victory over the Utes. Both teams still have home games against UCLA remaining, and the Utes also travel to Arizona before finishing up with a home date with Colorado. "We have higher standards," Helton told the Los Angeles Times. "We have more to play for. Some people want to write us off, but don't write us off quite yet." Cal, coming off a 33-20 victory over Washington State, needs to win one of its final three games which also include The Big Game at Stanford and a season-ender against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, to become bowl eligible.
ABOUT USC (6-4, 5-2 Pac-12)
Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis took home Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 29-of-39 passes for a career-best 432 yards and four touchdowns at Arizona State, with all his TDs coming in the first quarter when he was 15-of-17 (including his first 11 in a row) for 297 yards to stake the Trojans to a 28-7 lead. Sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had eight catches for 173 yards, including a 95-yard score, while Biletnikoff Award candidate Michael Pittman Jr. had a career-high 13 catches for 146 yards. True freshman end Drake Jackson led the defense with six tackles while fellow end Christian Rector sealed the victory when he batted a pass at the line of the scrimmage and then dove and caught it for an interception with 25 seconds remaining.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA ( 5-4, 2-4)
Devon Modster, who missed the Bears 35-0 loss at Utah on Oct. 26 with an injury, returned to complete 16-of-24 passes for 230 yards, three TDs and no interceptions and also ran for another TD in the win over the Cougars which snapped a four-game losing streak. The Bears, bolstered by the return of starting center Michael Saffell, rushed for 196 yards with sophomore Christopher Brown Jr. leading the way with 19 carries for 95 yards and a TD while junior wideout Kekoa Crawford also returned from injury and caught a team-high four passes for 58 yards. Senior linebacker Evan Weaver continued his stellar season with 10 tackles and leads the nation with an average of 15.2 tackles per game.
1. USC had a 14-game winning streak against Cal snapped last season with a 15-14 loss to the Bears at the Los Angeles Coliseum but hasn't lost in Berkeley since 2003 when Cal won in triple-overtime 34-31.
2., Cal, which could get starting quarterback Chase Garbers back from a shoulder injury this week, ranks 119th in the nation in total offense (308.6 yards per game) and 117th nationally in scoring offense (19.1 points).
3. Weaver has had at least 10 tackles in 15 of his last 16 games.
PREDICTION: USC 27, Cal 17