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Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage during an NCAA football game between the UCLA Bruins and the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage during an NCAA football game between the UCLA Bruins and the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Photo courtesy of collegefootballnews.com

 

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS vs

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC) TROJANS

** THE 86th MEETING **

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2016, 7:30 p.m.

THE ROSE BOWL, PASADENA, CA

TV: ESPN

ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads 47-31-7 (minus two wins due to NCAA sanctions, so it’s really 45-31-7)

LAST YEAR: USC won, 41-20, at the Coliseum

LINE: USC is favored by 11 points

 

*RECORDS*

UCLA: 4-6 overall, 2-5 and fifth place in the Pac-12 South

USC: 7-3 overall, 6-2 and second place in the Pac-12 South, ranked 15th in the AP Poll and 13th in the College Football Playoff Rankings

AT STAKE – Continued contention for the Pac-12 South title for the Trojans and a chance to spoil USC’s chances for the Bruins.

 

*STATISTICS*

Scoring Average (per game): UCLA 27.5, USC 31.4

Defensive Scoring Average (per game): UCLA 25.8, USC 22.5

Turnovers: UCLA 23 (15 INTs, 8 fumbles), USC 16 (8 INTs, 8 fumbles)

Penalties: UCLA 65 for 577 yards, USC 75 for 684 yards

 

 

Highlights of last year’s game at the Coliseum, a 40-21 win for USC. Courtesy of YouTube

 

*KEY PLAYERS*

(* = leads team)

UCLA:

Mike Fafaul, QB – 1,245 yards, 54.5% completions, 9 TD, 10 INTs

Soso Jamabo, RB – 308 yards rushing*, 3.9 ypc, 3 TD

Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB – 4.0 ypc, 4 TD

Darren Andrews, WR – 49 catches*, 647 yards, 4 TD

Jordan Lasley, WR – 34 catches, 475 yards, 4 TD

Ishmael Adams, PR/KR – 15 punt returns, 25 kick returns

Takkarist McKinley, DL – 46 tackles, 18 TFL (leads the nation), 10 sacks* (My choice for team MVP)

Jayon Brown, LB – 97 tackles*, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT

Kenny Young, LB – 72 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks

Randall Goforth, DB – 43 tackles, 4 INT

USC:

Sam Darnold, QB – 2,161 yards, 68.1% completions, 22 TD, 6 INT

Ronald Jones II, RB – 772 yards*, 6.3 ypc, 8 TD

Justin Davis, RB – 480 yards, 6.1 ypc, 2 TDs

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – 51 catches*, 682 yards*, 8 TDs

Darreus Rogers, WR – 44 catches, 571 yards, 3 TD

Adoree Jackson, DB/PR/KR – 15 punt returns, 1 TD for 77 yards; 16 kick returns, 1 TD for 100 yards, 4 INT* (My choice for team MVP)

Cameron Smith, LB – 66 tackles*, 6 TFL,

Michael Hutchings, LB – 57 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks

Porter Gustin, DE – 52 tackles, 9.5 TFL*, 4 sacks

Iman Marshall, DB – 43 tackles, 2 INT

Rasheem Green, DT – 5 TFL, 4.5 sacks*

 

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

 

I think it should go without saying that this year’s version of the Crosstown Rivalry Clash will feature two teams that are going in different directions.

One team’s season essentially began when the coach changed his starting quarterback, who then proceeded to lead that team to six straight wins.

Indeed, those Trojans are very much in the hunt for their second straight Pac-12 South crown – provided that either Utah or Colorado loses.

The other team’s season was in trouble even before their star quarterback went down with a shoulder injury and was subsequently forced to undergo surgery, ending his campaign.

That trouble was based on the fact that its offensive line can’t block, which was/is the main factor in their rushing attack being ranked 127th out of the 128 teams playing in the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision.

Add to that the fact that the Bruins’ wide receivers have had perhaps their worst year ever as far as catching the ball,

And it wouldn’t be surprising if every pundit predicted USC to blow out UCLA, ending the game early with a huge lead and putting them out of their misery.

 

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Bruin QB Josh Rosen – injured and out for this year’s game – being sacked during last year’s Crosstown Clash at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of wearesc.com

 

However…

You are more than welcome to call me crazy or biased, but I actually believe that the Bruins have a chance on Saturday.

It won’t be a good chance by any means – it would honestly be the TINIEST chance – but it IS a chance.

Here’s what Jim Mora’s team has to do to pull off what would be quite the upset (again, just being honest)…

* Use the team’s strength – it’s defense – to keep the game close and give the Bruins a chance to win, as they have done all year.

Takkarist McKinley, along with Jayon Brown, Kenny Young and the rest of UCLA’s front seven, must blitz ‘SC quarterback Sam Darnold; they need to “stay in their lanes”, so to speak, and not let Darnold – who is much like former UCLA standout Brett Hundley with his ability to run as well as throw – get loose.

In other words, if Darnold doesn’t have time to throw, all-everything receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (or any of the Trojan receivers) won’t be able to do the usual damage.

I’m fairly confident that the Bruin defense will keep USC’s offense from going buck wild.

The most important key to the game is this:

* The Bruin offense absolutely must be in the spread.

Not only that, it must run their plays at an extremely quick-tempo ala Oregon as the Trojan defense absolutely cannot be allowed to set between plays.

As the rushing attack has been pathetic all season and shows no sign (last week’s Oregon State game notwithstanding) of improving against a ‘SC defense who has kept multiple opponents to their lowest point totals the past few weeks, it would be pure folly to try to run the ball more than maybe a handful of times.

Fafaul must have around fifty pass attempts.

Which means that Darren Andrews, Jordan Lasley and the rest of the UCLA receivers absolutely and positively cannot have any drops!

 

 

A highlight clip of the last time UCLA & USC played at the Rose Bowl, resulting in the Bruins third straight win in the rivalry, 38-20. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

The bottom line for these Bruins:

THEY MUST PLAY A PERFECT GAME IN ORDER TO HAVE ANY CHANCE TO BEAT USC.

As for those Trojans, all they really have to do is to make sure they don’t come to the Rose Bowl on Saturday night with a cocky, overconfident attitude, hung over from beating a Washington team that was undefeated and ranked fourth in the country on the road.

They must avoid a let down, which could easily happen and more often than not does whenever a team has a follow-up game after such a big win.

In other words, UCLA is very much a potential trap game for USC.

Just like back in 2006, when a 10-1 Trojan team needed only to beat a mediocre 6-5 Bruin team to clinch a berth in the BCS National Championship Game – and ended up on the short end of the biggest upset in Crosstown Rivalry history; see the article written on Monday for details.

If USC does come in with an “All we have to do is show up” mindset, and UCLA, as I expect, comes in pumped,

Then this 86th edition of the City Championship will not only get very interesting, but will have a chance for an upset that will surpass the one in ’06 because the Bruins at least had a winning record that year.

 

Coming Tomorrow:

MY PREDICTIONS OF HOW I SEE THIS GAME UNFOLDING, WHICH WILL INCLUDE, AS ALWAYS, A PREDICTION OF THE FINAL SCORE.

SO BE SURE TO COME BACK TO THIS SITE TO SEE WHAT I BELIEVE WILL HAPPEN AT THE ROSE BOWL ON SATURDAY NIGHT!

 

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Former UCLA running back Paul Perkins getting some yardage during the last UCLA-USC game played at the Rose Bowl in 2014. Photo courtesy of gojoebruin.com

 

 

 

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