The Bruin and Trojan football teams squaring off in the 2012 game. Photo courtesy of tritontimes.com
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS vs
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC) TROJANS
**THE 85th MEETING**
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2015, 12:30 p.m.
LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM
TV: ABC Channel 7 or ESPN2
ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads 46-31-7 (with two wins vacated due to NCAA sanctions)
CURRENT STREAK: UCLA has won the last three
LAST YEAR: UCLA won, 38-20, at the Rose Bowl
LINE: USC is favored by three points
UCLA and USC flags flying, with downtown Los Angeles in the background. Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
UCLA: 8-3 overall, 5-3 and tied for first in the Pac-12 South, #22 in the College Football Playoff rankings
USC: 7-4 overall, 5-3 and tied for first in the Pac-12 South
AT STAKE – The championship of the Pac-12 South and a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, CA vs Stanford on December 5th
Scoring Average (per game): UCLA 33.5, USC 35.6
Defensive Scoring Average (per game): UCLA 23.7, USC 25
Turnovers: UCLA 17 (12 INTs, 5 fumbles), USC 20 (12 INTs, 8 fumbles)
Penalties: UCLA 95 for 75.3 yards per game, USC 84 for 71.4 yards per game
(* = leads team)
Josh Rosen, QB – 3,122 yards, 60.2% completions, 19 TDs, 7 INTs
Paul Perkins, RB – 208 carries*, 1.180 yards*, 5.7 ypc, 11 TDs, 107.3 ypg*
Jordan Payton, WR – 77 catches*, 1,008 yards*, 91.6 ypg*, 4 TDs
Thomas Duarte, WR – 46 catches, 757 yards, 9 TDs
Kenny Clark, DL – 57 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks
Aaron Wallace, LB – 46 tackles, 10 TFL*, 6 sacks*
Ka’imi Faribairn, K – 20 out of 22 field goals, 90.9%, Long: 60 yards (Pac-12 record)
Cody Kessler, QB – 2,953 yards, 69.2% completions, 25 TDs, 6 INTs
Ronald Jones II, RB – 122 carries*, 827 yards*, 6.8 ypc*, 7 TDs
JuJu Smith-Shuster, WR – 68 catches*, 1,217 yards*, 110.6 ypg*, 10 TDs*
Adoree Jackson, WR/CB/KR/PR – 105.9 all purpose yards per game
Su’a Cravens, LB – 70 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs
Delvon Simmons, DT – 43 tackles, 7.5 TFL*, 4 sacks
Anthony Sarao, LB – 42 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3 sacks
UCLA vs USC, 2014: Highlights from last year’s game, played at the Rose Bowl – Bruins won 38-20
With the prize – besides bragging rights and the Victory Bell – being a Pac-12 South title and a date with top ten foe Stanford in the conference championship game, this is one Crosstown Rivalry clash that I’m sure fans wearing both blue and gold and cardinal and gold wanted.
It goes without saying that both the Bruins and the Trojans will be extremely motivated, pumped, hyped, and every other description of that type for this game; that’s been a standard par for the course ever since the two schools began playing each other on a football field in 1929.
However, one observation must be expressed:
I would very much like to meet any USC football player, particularly a player who has been in the program for at least two years, whose motivation to beat UCLA is not a 1,000 on a scale of one to ten.
That especially goes for the Trojans’ fifth-year senior quarterback as Cody Kessler, to put it mildly, has not had any fun in this rivalry, getting sacked six times each of the past two games against the Bruins.
Being that this will be his last home game, I don’t think anyone in recent rivalry history will want to beat the rival more than Kessler will.
UCLA vs USC, 2013: Highlights from the previous game played at the Coliseum – Bruins won, 35-14
As for his counterpart, who age-wise is the opposite of Kessler as he is barely able to vote and is three years away from legally being able to drink,
I can’t recall any true freshman having a better first season in college under center than Josh Rosen; he even has more passing yards than Kessler, if you can believe that!
If there were a such thing as a Freshman Heisman Trophy winner, Rosen would not only win it, but most likely win it by a unanimous vote; that 18-year old from Bellflower’s St. John Bosco High (CA) has been that good!
And he will need to be that good this Saturday, as this will be his first experience in the Crosstown Rivalry, complete with the inevitable hostilities on a pronounced scale that the Trojan Family is more or less guaranteed to bring.
Actually, when I researched the stats – individual and team – there wasn’t one category where one school greatly outdid the other.
And both squads’ key stars have similar numbers as the two top wide receivers, UCLA’s Jordan Payton and SC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, both have over 1,000 receiving yards this year while the top linebackers, the Trojans’ Su’a Cravens and the Bruins’ Aaron Wallace, both have over ten tackles for loss and at least five and a half sacks.
In a nutshell, these teams are more or less evenly matched.
Which means that the chances of this upcoming battle being a close, exciting affair are that much better.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, left, runs in for a touchdown as he escapes a tackle by Southern California linebacker Devon Kennard during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. UCLA won 35-14. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Photo courtesy of bigstory.ap.org
All right, here are my keys to the game for both UCLA and USC:
For the Bruins: On offense, the running backs – not only back-to-back 1,000 yard stud Paul Perkins but speedy freshman Soso Jamabo and sophomore Nate Starks as well – must have an outstanding day on the ground.
Otherwise it will be that much easier for USC’s defense to bring the house, including the kitchen sink, on Rosen (more on that in a bit).
As for the defense, I think it may possibly be a tiny bit harder to do what they have been so successful in doing to the Trojans the past three seasons: putting much pressure on the ‘SC quarterback as like it has been since the BYU game in week three, two of UCLA’s key interior guys, Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack, have not seen the field due to torn knees; I don’t think Jack is even in Westwood anymore as he declared for the NFL draft soon after his season (and college career as it turned out) ending injury.
The encouraging thing for that Bruin front seven is the fact that they did such a good job in their last outing, keeping a tough Utah team in Salt Lake City out of the end zone and holding them to three field goals in that win.
If UCLA can perform to that standard at the Coliseum, their chances of keeping the Victory Bell painted blue will improve quite nicely.
Oh yeah, there’s one more thing that the Bruins need to do:
Cut out the penalties!
Or keep them to a bare minimum as that had been a painful Achilles’ heel for a while now, with UCLA averaging nearly nine yellow flags a game.
To continue that dreadful trend against USC will spell nothing but disaster.
06 December 2008: Tailback Stafon Johnson of USC runs and eludes a tackle by (50) Chase Moline of UCLA during the second half of USC’s 28-7 victory over UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of trojanathleticfund.com
For the Trojans: I’ll start with ‘SC’s defense, because their main objective against the Bruins will be something I have mentioned a little earlier:
Bring the house on UCLA as far as pressure, and rattle the heck out of Rosen.
In other words, try to take advantage of his youth and, despite his success and the poise he has shown all year, the fact that this is the Bruin QB’s first rivalry game.
Jones and upperclassmen Justin Davis and Tre Madden need to do what a lot of other running backs have done against coach Jim Mora’s team: exploit the continuing void left by Vanderdoes and Jack, who were difference makers on defense that has had some troubles against the run because of their injuries this season.
And of course JuJu Smith-Schuster, with his 110.6 receiving yards per game, needs to be his usual stud self as sure as I am writing this, Kessler will be trying to get the ball into Smith-Schuster’s hands as often as possible.
There is one other essential factor to the Trojans’ success this Saturday, one other crucial thing that interim coach Clay Helton’s squad needs in order to take back that bell and paint it cardinal:
I can promise that the Trojan Family – the students, the band, the Song Girls, the alumni, their horse mascot Traveler, and everyone else wearing USC gear will do their utmost best to make the L.A. Coliseum as hostile as the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, where the Raiders and their notorious “Raider Nation” fan base ply their trade.
In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that the Trojan fans will use any means necessary to make their home the opposite of Heaven for not only the Bruin football team, but for any and all members of Bruin Nation traveling to the Coliseum for that contest.
Hopefully UCLA will be ready for that.
COMING THIS FRIDAY ON SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS (as tomorrow is Thanksgiving):
MY PREDICTIONS AS TO HOW I SEE THIS LATEST RENEWAL OF THE CROSSTOWN RIVALRY GAME BETWEEN UCLA and USC UNFOLDING.
INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE WILL BE MY PREDICTION OF THE FINAL SCORE – TRUST ME, YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THAT!
SO BE SURE TO COME BACK TO THIS SITE TO CHECK OUT WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN AT THE COLISEUM ON SATURDAY!
And oh, before I forget:
A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM SOCALSPORTSANNALS.COM!
UCLA’s Thomas Duarte scoring in last year’s game, won by the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of ReignofTroy.com