In preparation for Saturday's game at AT&T Park, Cal tailback Isi Sofele and his friends from Utah are engaging in reverse psychology.
Sofele, a Salt Lake City native, says he knows "probably more than half" of the Utah players. But rather than good natured trash-talking, Sofele and his buddies have been pumping each other up.
"I guess they're trying to soften me up before the game," Sofele said. "It's not working, because I've caught on. They're texting me that I'm doing a good job this season. But I'm playing their game, too. It's going to be fun."
Sofele has been looking forward to the Utah game since the Pac-12 schedule was released last November. Since the Utes play in the South Division and Cal plays in the North, there were no guarantees the teams would meet. Pac-12 teams play four of the six teams in the opposite division each season.
"I was excited to be playing against these guys," Sofele said. "I've played with some of them and against a lot of them. I still hang out with them when I go back home."
Sofele was teammates with three current Utes at Cottonwood High in Salt Lake, including starting linebacker Matt Martinez. Fullback Max Moala is his cousin. Sofele was offered by Utah but said the Utes placed a deadline on giving an oral commitment and he needed more time.
"I feel like I can't get too excited, but at the same time I want to just get out there and go already," Sofele said.
During last week's win at Pittsburgh, Utah held talented running back Ray Graham to just 46 yards on 12 carries. Graham entered the game averaging 148.83 rushing yards. USC used its speed and a sound scheme to swarm Sofele on Thursday, limiting him to 44 yards on 12 carries.
Meanwhile, Utah defensive end Derrick Shelby had 11/2 sacks against Pittsburgh and also returned an interception for a touchdown, giving him national defensive player of the week honors.
"It's going to be important that we're able to mix it up," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We can't be one-dimensional. We need to be patient with the run, because they do a good job. They're physical and play very hard."
"We've all seen his talent and he's a strong competitor that has a lot of great skills to go with it," Tedford said. "He has a great understanding of the game. It's really no surprise when you watch Keenan practice every day and the skills that he brings."
Allen is on pace for 104 catches and 1,656 yards, both of which would be school records.