The USC football team returns to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for the first time in nearly a month on Thursday night to host the California Golden Bears. The game, which is only the second non-Thanksgiving, non-bowl Thursday game ever played at the Coliseum, will kick off the Trojans’ home stretch, as rivalry matchups against UCLA and Notre Dame await the squad to close out the regular season.Goldsmith · Freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith will play his first career weeknight game on Thursday night against Cal. Smith caught three touchdowns against Washington State on Nov. 1., a USC freshman record. — Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanThe unranked Trojans (6-3, 5-2 Pac-12) are coming off of a bye week following a win at Washington State. In that game, redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw for a career-high 400 yards, as well as five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith caught three of those, tying a USC freshman record for most touchdowns in a single game by a freshman.Smith, Kessler and the rest of the gang enjoyed some well-deserved rest when USC head coach Steve Sarkisian gave the team a week off from practice. This allowed sophomore linebacker Su’a Cravens, among others, to heal his wounds. Cravens, USC’s breakout star on defense this season, tweaked his knee in the 44-17 win over the Cougars, but an MRI showed no structural damage, and the explosive defensive back made a quick recovery.Sarkisian was impressed with the way his team performed during the bye week.“Going into the Washington State game, we had to give it everything we had to get prepared for that game, mentally, physically and emotionally,” Sarkisian said. “We had been in some physical games, we’d been in some emotional games, and it felt like the break came at a great time for us. We took some time off and came back this week, and I think the guys have been fantastic.”USC’s defense will certainly need to be in the right shape in order to stop the high-octane offense coming to the Coliseum on Thursday night. The Bears (5-4, 3-4) boast the third-best total offense (509.1 yards per game) in the Pac-12 and the second-best scoring offense (41.9 points per game).The Bears, who also enjoyed a bye week following a 45-31 win at Oregon State, have quarterback Jared Goff to thank for such inflated numbers. The sophomore gunslinger is averaging 346.6 passing yards per game and has thrown 27 touchdowns and four interceptions.“Jared [Goff] is a beast,” Cravens said. “I think he came in our class, and he was one of the top passers in the Pac-12, if not the nation, last year, so we’re not sleeping on him. He can definitely throw the ball.”With Goff commanding Cal’s offense, USC’s inexperienced secondary might be cause for concern. Junior Kevon Seymour has been a stronghold at cornerback, but the safety position has been a bit shaky since Cravens moved to linebacker. Senior Gerald Bowman, sophomore Leon McQuay III and freshman John Plattenburg have all rotated there, but all three are nursing injuries.The Trojans might take solace in the idea that the best defense is a good offense, because the team has certainly been rolling on that end.This week, Kessler, who is fourth nationally in completion percentage (69.7) and eighth in passing touchdowns (25), was named one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.Though Kessler has flown under the radar most of the season, he earned high praise from his head coach, who is excited for what the Bakersfield, California, native will bring to the table in the last month of the regular season.“He’s gonna have some really cool opportunities here this last month of the season in November to have a couple of these maybe defining-type moments,” Sarkisian said. “The key for us and the key for Cody is to capitalize on them — to make the most of them, to be at our best at the most critical moments. And we’re gonna need him to be if we want to accomplish what we think we’re capable of accomplishing.”Kessler will certainly need to be on his game to match Goff’s keen anticipation skills. But Cal’s defense — statistically the worst in the conference — might have a hard time containing him.The Bears rank last in passing and total defense, but are slightly better as a run-stopping unit.USC’s redshirt junior tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen, though, might have something to say about that. The Tallahassee, Florida, native, who leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game, has eclipsed 100 rush yards in the last six games, prompting the Heisman committee to tab him as a potential candidate for this year’s award.Last year in Berkeley, Allen had his way with the Bears’ defense. He amassed 135 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns — on just six carries. He also hauled in a 57-yard receiving touchdown on USC’s way to a 62-28 blowout.Cal’s Daniel Lasco, though, has also emerged as a viable running back this year. His 88.44 yards per game ranks seventh in the Pac-12, but his 10 touchdowns rank second.USC’s front seven, which includes tried-and-true linebacker Hayes Pullard and All-American defensive end Leonard Williams, will have their hands full stopping Lasco and trying to get to Goff before his quick release. Goff’s 260 yards and three touchdowns weren’t enough to overcome the Trojans in last year’s matchup, which ended up being Cal’s 10th straight loss to USC.USC has not lost to Cal in the Coliseum since 2000 and looks to keep thatstreak going tonight at 6 p.m.