USC (4-2, 1-2) vs. California (3-2, 1-1), 12:30 p.m., Coliseum (FSN)
After consecutive last-second losses, USC hopes to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2001. Cal looked bad in a loss to No. 19 Nevada last month, but the Golden Bears have not given up more than 10 points in any other game. Staff writer Gary Klein looks at the game's key issues and matchups:
Cal's Jeff Tedford, Lane Kiffin's position coach and mentor at Fresno State, is winless as a head coach at the Coliseum.
In 2002, the Bears led the Trojans, 21-3, but USC took advantage of a phantom touchdown catch by receiver Kareem Kelly and went on to score 27 unanswered points en route to a 30-28 victory.
Two years later, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first 23 passes — and 29 of 34 overall — but USC waged a defensive stand in the final minute that sent the Golden Bears to a 23-17 defeat.
In 2006, David Buehler kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal as fog rolled in, and John David Booty threw a fourth-down touchdown pass that helped lift the Trojans to a 23-9 victory.
Two years ago, USC made 10 tackles for losses and limited Cal to 27 yards rushing in a 17-3 victory.
Monte Kiffin, USC's assistant head coach for defense, is hoping his embattled unit steps up after being torched by Washington and Stanford, which both defeated the Trojans with last-minute drives.
With Malcolm Smith sidelined because of a knee injury, Chris Galippo will start at weakside linebacker for a unit that ranks 100th nationally in total defense and 116th in pass defense.
First-year Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who worked previously in that role for the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals, has the Golden Bears ranked first in the Pac-10 and eighth nationally in total defense. Linebackers Mike Mohamed and D.J. Holt are the leading tacklers and linebacker Mychal Kendricks leads the Pac-10 with 4 1/2 sacks.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley looks to build on his performance against Stanford, which may have been the best of his career.
Barkley, who passed for 15 touchdowns with 14 interceptions as a freshman in 2009, has already equaled last year's touchdown total, with only four interceptions. He ranks 14th nationally and is second in the Pac-10 Conference in passing efficiency.
Barkley goes up against a Cal defense that ranks sixth nationally against the pass.
After facing Jake Locker and Andrew Luck the last two games, the Trojans defense gets a break from quarterbacks regarded as possible top picks in the NFL draft.
Cal's Kevin Riley, who has passed for nine touchdowns with four interceptions, ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in total offense and has zero rushing yards.
Ground it out
USC senior Allen Bradford, after rushing for 223 yards against Washington, ran for only 33 in 13 carries against Stanford.
It won't get any easier against a Cal defense that has given up only 106 yards rushing per game. USC will be without freshman tailback Dillon Baxter, who suffered a toe injury against Stanford.
Shane Vereen is the latest in a long line of productive Cal running backs. The Valencia High standout has averaged 115 yards per game and has eight touchdowns. Last week against UCLA, he ran for 151 yards and scored twice.
Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, six for nine on field-goal attempts, probably prepared for this game by envisioning that he would be called upon to make a last-second kick. Bryan Anger has averaged 46.5 yards a punt.
USC's Joe Houston has made two of six field-goal attempts and Jake Harfman has averaged 40.8 yards per punt.
USC receiver Robert Woods, averaging 25.6 yards a return, leads the Pac-10 with 20 kickoff returns.