Cal (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) at USC (5-4, 4-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Los Angeles TV/Radio: ESPN/810
Story lines: This game has drawn a lot of histrionic chatter in the lead-up, but there is great present-day significance for each team. Cal is one victory from earning bowl eligibility for just the second time in seven seasons. USC is in a three-way tie with Utah and Arizona for first place in the Pac-12 South.
Injuries: Cal — WR Kanawai Noa (undisclosed) is questionable. WR Jordan Duncan (hand) is doubtful. RB Johnny Adams Jr. (leg), OL Henry Bazakas (lower body), DL Rusty Becker (lower body), QB Ross Bowers (thumb), LB Derron Brown (personal), LB Gerran Brown (medical retirement), RB Derrick Clark (lower body), LB Cameron Goode (leg), OL Michael Saffell (leg) and WR Brandon Singleton (undisclosed) are out. USC — DB Olaijah Griffin (shoulder) is probable. DB Greg Johnson (shoulder), LB Levi Jones (hip) and DB Iman Marshall (ankle) are questionable. WR Michael Pittman Jr. (shoulder) is doubtful. TE Austin Applebee (neck), RB Stephen Carr (ankle) is out, LB Porter Gustin (ankle), DB Talanoa Hufanga (collarbone), TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hip), K Chase McGrath (ACL) and DB Isaiah Pola-Mao (shoulder) are out.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
⏩ Cal has lost 14 straight against USC, last winning in 2003 (34-31 in triple overtime). The Bears last won at the Coliseum in 2000 (28-16). USC had a 19-game home winning streak snapped by Arizona State on Oct. 27.
⏩ USC head coach Clay Helton said this game will be won by the big boys. He re-assumed play-calling responsibilities last Saturday at Oregon State, and the Trojans pounded out more than 300 rushing yards on 7.8 yards per carry. Cal’s past three opponents have averaged 88.3 rushing yards per game on 3.0 yards per carry.
⏩ With all of the attention on the running game, one of the young quarterbacks could make a game-deciding play. USC’s JT Daniels is a true freshman who graduated high school a year early to try to replace No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. Cal’s Chase Garbers is a redshirt freshman who has shown steady improvement in each of his six starts.