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California wide receiver Keenan Allen, left, hauls in a pass over the defense of Fresno State strong saftey Deron Smith, right, during first half action of their football game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Sept 3, 2011. California won 36-21. (John Green/Staff)

While Cal attempts to avoid an 0-3 start to Pac-12 Conference play Thursday against USC, there will be an engaging story within the story taking place.

The nationally televised showdown features the top two wide receivers in the conference -- and two of the best in the nation -- in USC's Robert Woods and Cal's Keenan Allen.

Woods paces the Pac-12 and is tied for the national lead with 11 receptions per game, and Allen is second in the conference and tied for 11th in that category nationally at almost eight catches per game. Woods also is second in the country with 149.4 receiving yards per game, and Allen is sixth at 133.6. They are 1-2 in the Pac-12 in that department, as well.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Allen said. "We're both good athletes. It's going to be a great show."

Woods and Allen are sophomores who both made an impact as true freshmen last season. Woods was the Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year after catching 65 passes for 792 yards. Allen was an All-Pac-10 second-team pick after setting Cal freshman records with 46 receptions for 490 yards.

"He's a great receiver," Woods said in a phone interview. "I watched him play against Oregon (last Thursday). He has great hands and knows how to attack the ball."

Woods had a landmark game during USC's 48-14 rout of Cal last season, catching seven passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

"He was the Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year last year, and he worked during the offseason like he didn't have one catch," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "He really got himself better. He's really focused."

  • The Bears are torn between using last year's loss at USC as motivation and forgetting about it altogether. Cal fell behind 42-0 at halftime.

    "That whole game, especially the first half, is definitely motivating going into this year's game," Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones said. "But we're just approaching it like we can win this game. We don't have to prove ourselves from last year's game. I don't think they will take us lightly because of it. I don't think it's going to happen like that this year."

    Kiffin expects a different game this year, as well.

    "Everything just went right for us and everything went wrong for them," Kiffin said. "Everybody has those games every year or two. Even when you call a play that's not supposed to work, somebody makes a great play. It was just one of those games where everything went our way and nothing went their way."

  • The final frames of the new press box at Memorial Stadium were hoisted into place by a huge crane Tuesday. The press box is two levels, one for the media and one for alumni and donors. The roof, facade and furnishings of the press box will be added next.