LOS ANGELES -- The Cal defense now has a blueprint for stopping USC when the teams meet Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum. But will it matter for the Bears, who have surrendered at least 30 points in each of their first three games?
Stanford battered star quarterback Matt Barkley, sacking him four times and picking him off twice in a 21-14 win last week. The Cardinal took advantage of inexperience on the Trojans' offensive line to unleash a ceaseless barrage on Barkley.
"That's definitely going to be one of the keys to the game, because I saw his whole demeanor change," Cal nose guard Kendrick Payne said of Barkley. "He's not used to being hit like that.
"He'll pick you apart if you give him time to sit back there. When his jersey is white, he's good to go. We're going to make sure that don't happen."
It sounds good, but Barkley has owned Cal the past three seasons, passing for 830 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. USC has won eight straight games in the series, and the Barkley-led Trojans have outscored the Bears 108-26.
In his fourth straight defeat to Stanford, Barkley completed less than 50 percent of his passes and did not throw a touchdown.
"Matt Barkley is not going to have another bad game like that unless we force him to," Cal safety Josh Hill said.
It's been a trying week for USC coach Lane Kiffin, the one-time Raiders coach who played quarterback at Fresno State in the mid-1990s when Cal coach Jeff Tedford was the offensive coordinator there.
After the loss to Stanford, Kiffin's team fell 11 spots to No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25. He's got issues on the offensive line and at place-kicker. And he was ridiculed in the media for sprinting away from a news conference Wednesday after just 28 seconds because he didn't like a question about injuries.
But Kiffin has the offensive firepower to roll up 30 or more points against the Bears. Should that happen, it would be the first time Cal has given up that many points in four successive games in Tedford's 10-plus seasons.
"They're very talented," Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "They've got skilled players at every position."
The Bears cannot simply tee off on Barkley, because the Trojans can run the ball. And while he isn't the scrambling threat the Bears saw in Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Barkley "is no stiff by any means," Tedford said. "They move the pocket quite a bit. They'll change the launch points and try to buy him some time."
To defuse the Trojans, the Bears will need the combined efforts of their defensive line and cornerbacks Steve Williams and Marc Anthony, who will be matched against explosive wideouts Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
Tedford is hoping a healthy defensive front makes a difference. "The D-line is going to have to play a very good game and try to push the pocket," Tedford said.
USC should get a boost with the expected return to health of senior center Khaled Holmes. Stanford focused its rush up the middle last week to exploit a redshirt freshman playing center for portions of the game.
The Bears also understand playing well part of the afternoon won't be good enough. During one stretch last Saturday, Cal held Ohio State without a point on seven consecutive possessions.
"And then bang!" Tedford said. "The long quarterback run, the long pass, the broken coverage at the end for the pass. That's been the Achilles heel, giving up big plays."
Linebacker Chris McCain called the mistakes "unacceptable."
"Everything that went wrong in the first three games big play-wise, we practice," he said. "There was nothing we missed. It was just breakdowns."
And it if happens again Saturday, a ninth straight loss to the Trojans could follow.