(21) USC (7-3) at (17) UCLA (8-2)|
Saturday, November 17, 3:05 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Crosstown rivals collide in Pasadena, as the 21st-ranked USC
Trojans take on the 17th-ranked UCLA Bruins in a crucial Pac-12 South matchup
at the Rose Bowl.
Jim Mora has turned UCLA around in a hurry. The Bruins have won four straight
games to move to 8-2 overall and into first place in the Pac-12 South at 5-2,
a half game ahead of the Trojans. UCLA has used a lethal offensive attack for
much of the season, including last week's 44-36 victory at Washington State.
While not the most impressive win of the season, Mora was pleased nonetheless.
"We are 8-2," Mora said. "We won a game in difficult conditions. That bodes
well for UCLA football."
Lane Kiffin knows a thing or two about offensive proficiency, as his Trojans
are among the nation's most explosive units. The team lost a pair of shootouts
to close out October (39-36 loss at Arizona) and to open up play in November
(62-51 loss to Oregon), but found their way back in the win column last
weekend with a 38-17 win over Arizona State.
The winner of this game takes the Pac-12 South and will represent the division
in the Pac-12 Championship Game. This is the 82nd meeting in this historic
rivalry, with the Trojans holding a 46-28-7 series advantage. USC has won the
last five meetings and 12 of the last 13, overall.
A star-studded offense leads the way for USC, with All-Americans at the
quarterback and wide receiver positions. The result is a juggernaut that is
putting up 462.9 yards of offense per game.
It starts with senior QB Matt Barkley, who continues to rewrite the record
books at USC. Barkley may not be in the Heisman race, but has still put up
impressive numbers, completing 64.8 percent of his passes, for 2,972 yards,
with 33 touchdowns.
Sophomore Marqise Lee is not only a Biletnikoff semifinalist, but the odds on
favorite to win the award. He has already amassed 98 receptions, for 1,447
yards and 13 TDs on the year. On any other team, All-American Robert Woods
would be the go-to-guy, as he has hauled in 61 balls, for 653 yards and 10
The ground attack takes a backseat to the passing game, but USC has a pair of
capable backs in Silas Redd (732 yards, 5.4 ypc, nine TDs) and Curtis McNeal
(497 yards, 6.0 ypc, two TDs).
The USC defense has had its moments this season, just not enough of them. The
Trojans have been particularly vulnerable to some of the conference's top
offenses and are allowing a generous 390.8 yards per game. The squad has made
more than its fair share of big plays, recording 37 sacks and 28 forced
turnovers to date.
All-American candidate T.J. McDonald (team-high 83 tackles, two INTs) patrols
the secondary. Sophomores Hayes Pullard (67 tackles, two sacks, one INT) and
Dion Bailey (63 tackles, four INTs) are active linebackers with a nose for the
ball. Up front, the Trojans are getting great production from Morgan Breslin
(32 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks), Leonard Williams (32 tackles, 10.5 TFLs,
6.5 sacks) and Wes Horton (28 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, 5.0 sacks).
The Bruins will put the USC defense through its paces, as UCLA comes in with a
balanced attack that has found it easy to move the football both on the ground
(210.9 ypg) and through the air (285.9 ypg).
Freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has probably exceeded all expectations in
his first season under center, completing almost 70 percent of his passes, for
2,739 yards, with 24 TDs against nine INTs. The team doesn't have a one-two
punch on the outside like USC, but wideout Shaquelle Evans (39 receptions, 571
yards, two TDs) and tight end Joseph Fauria (31 receptions, 417 yards, nine
TDs) have certainly made their share of plays.
The passing game is enhanced by the rushing exploits of senior tailback
Johnathan Franklin, who ranks sixth nationally in rushing at 127.0 yards per
game. Franklin has rushed for 1,270 yards (6.4 ypc) this season and eight TDs.
Hundley has had a nose for the end zone as well, scoring six times on the
The Bruins have had their ups and downs defensively this season, allowing a
generous 411.0 yards per game overall. The unit has been particularly
vulnerable to the pass, giving up 266.4 yards per game through the air.
Sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks (101 stops) has been a tackling machine
this season, leading the Pac-12 in tackles (10.2 per game). Junior linebacker
Anthony Barr is in his first season on the defensive side of the ball and has
been a monster with his upfield pursuit, ranking among the nation's best in
TFLs (17.0) and sacks (11.0).
The Bruins certainly have the kind of offense that can give any team trouble.
The Trojans will reciprocate with Barkley, Lee and company. This one could be
a track meet and while that would usually favor the Trojans, the Bruins,
behind Franklin's ground and pound, may earn the big win and spot in the
Pac-12 title game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 37, USC 35
11/14 16:38:48 ET