Bumped...A great take by one of our regulars, BruinFan1 - P
Hello Trojan fans! I hope all the Men of Troy and the Sons of Westwood are ready for Nov. 28. I truly believe this is going to be a great game, maybe even one for ESPN Classic. Yeah, I understand that I may be getting ahead of myself, but my opinion isn't based on some gut feeling.
As I've stated before on this blog, my wife has been organizing Trojan football tailgates for the Trojan Club of Beach Cities (she graduated from Annenberg in 2006) all year. I've attended nearly all of the events she's helped organize and watched every Trojan football game from beginning to end. I've seen both our teams "progress" throughout the season.
I've seen spectacular plays and downright awful execution from both USC and UCLA. At this point in the season, I see two teams that are more enigmas than known products. But how did they get here? A brief recap of our seasons will help us navigate all those facts the pundits like to talk about (you know, the stats that don't mean a damn thing):
USC Trojans - Talk about a fast start! Matt Barkley went down to the Horse Shoe and punched Jim Tressel in his stupid four-eyed face (that's what OSU gets for having a seed as a mascot and for ruining every BCS bowl game they go to).
But then something unexpected happened. Failure, thy name is Aaron Corp. Actually, I hate to blame one kid for a loss. Corp's inability to seize the moment at Washington is a reflection of the USC coaching staff's inability to foster competition between players and cultivate talent on the sidelines. Poor Corp was just a casualty of this problem.
The bloom was off the rose after the Washington fiasco, but these issues have lingered all season. USC then beats a Cal team that craps the bed on an annual basis, nearly blew a lead at Notre Dame, and played a squeaker with Oregon State. Then Oregon happened.
USC showed no life in Eugene. No signs of fight. Worst of all, I heard some talk from players that sounded very Karl Dorrellian (remember him?). Players were saying they didn't know what was wrong or how a blowout loss could even happen. Fast forward to the Stanford game after an anemic offensive performance at ASU and you get the same problem.
Players are frustrated after the worst loss at the Coliseum. Ever. I don't think they can figure out what's wrong. Now I'm reading that some USC players don't think the UCLA game is that big of a deal. Hmmmm....
The last game against Oregon State was a heartbreaker. With two minutes left, the UCLA defense allowed Oregon State's offense to run all over us. Game over. Despite all this, UCLA showed some signs of a budding offense (finally). Then the Bruins went on to win another three consecutively. This included a close but legitimate win against Washington, and some defensive muscle-flexing against ASU (albeit against a QB starting his first game).
Now onto my prognostication...
In terms of momentum, there's no doubt UCLA gets the nod. The Mighty Bruins are coming off a three-game winning streak, and are look to play their best football of the season. The offense looks okay under Kevin Prince, and the defense is okay too (I'm not willing to give Chuck Bullough the benefit of the doubt after just one good performance against a QB with no real experience).
USC, on the other hand, looks lost for the first time in the Pete Carroll era. I have seen no evidence that the team or Pete Carroll can respond positively to adversity. In fact, after the Oregon game I told my wife that I thought USC would fall apart. I think we all witnessed some crumbling over the past month or so.
USC is not helping this perception when players say they don't think this legendary rivals game is a big deal. If this accurately reflects the Trojan's emotional state, then your football team is going to have a rude awakening on Saturday.
In terms of talent, it isn't even close. Sure, UCLA has some impact players, but Pete Carroll has been tearing up the recruiting trail for the better part of a decade. USC has a more talented player at nearly every position. Trojan players should be thanking their lucky stars that they're coming into this game after a week off. They needed this time off not only to heal, but to get their minds and hearts right.
So what's going to happen Saturday? It all depends on the Trojans' state of mind. If your team can play with some sorely needed passion, you'll win easily. I, however, don't think this will happen. Apathy seems to have taken over some of your players. Mark my words, UCLA will come out with passion. Passion beats talent almost every time.
I think McKnight will have a stellar game on Saturday, continuing his solid play over the past several weeks. I also think Barkley will continue to have happy feet, but not as badly as he did before. He and Prince will end the game with similar stats, but Barkley will make the better plays. Both of our defenses will make it very hard on our offenses.
Also, don't expect a game that posts more than 20 points for either team. I just don't see them having enough offensive juice at this point of the season to blow each other out. If the game is very low scoring you will be cursing Kai Forbath for several days. UCLA has a big edge with that guy on our team.
What does my heart say? UCLA 16, USC 14
What does my mind say? UCLA 20, USC 21 (a very, very close game, but USC scores late in the fourth)
USC's lack of passion and fight will keep it close.
To close, I want to thank ParagonSC for the opportunity to write this. I had a great time writing for this great blog.
Here's to an injury-free game. Go Bruins!