LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Matt Barkely #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass against the Washington Huskies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 40-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I hate these late night games.
I hate having to wait for the game to get going...especially a game like this one.
For USC here is what is on the line...
Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but when UCLA plays USC in the 81st football game between the rivals, something pretty huge will be at stake.
How about the future of both programs?
For UCLA, it's the short term. It's survival for Coach Rick Neuheisel. And, astonishingly, with Colorado's upset win against Utah on Friday, a chance to possibly conclude the season in the Rose Bowl — or no bowl game at all.
For No. 10 USC, it's a chance to build on a signature victory, for Coach Lane Kiffin to keep momentum going into a recruiting season that will be unlike any other in Trojans history and to possibly set his team up for a national title run two years after being hammered by the NCAA.
I just want to win to keep the string going and to set the tone for next season.
Here are some keys to the game...
Matt Barkley will eventually get the ball outside to Woods and Lee, but UCLA's weakness is in run defense. RB Curtis McNeal is expected to play despite a knee injury, while RB Marc Tyler will be inspired on Senior Day. The Bruins best chance is to force interceptions (12 picks on the season), so the Trojans' offense should bludgeon them early and finish them off through the air.
The pistol offense has stimulated UCLA's running game the last two seasons, but they are 11th in the conference in passing offense. Kevin Prince is the quarterback du jour, but he is turnover prone (8 TDs to 6 INTs). If the Trojans front seven concentrates on stopping the run, Prince has not proven that he can carve up a defense with his arm.
The Trojans have shown incredible mental toughness this season, but the distractions were everywhere this week. From the Oregon hangover to #Barkley4Heisman to Senior Day, concentration will be the key to avoiding a letdown. No player on the USC roster has ever lost the "Crosstown Showdown." The Trojans have a chance to close the season in style in front of a packed house by getting to 10 wins, letting the seniors play and giving Barkley his Heisman moment.
I really have nothing to add.
USC has seen this UCLA offense before, so I am not expecting too much of a change, maybe the occasional trickeration to change things up. The USC offense has the ability to truck USC's defense but it all starts up front. If the O-line gives Barkley the time he needs 'SC will score their points, (see below).
Here are the key match-ups...
The Bruins have to get at Barkley or risk dangling their defensive backs like bait.
UCLA ranks 111th out of 120 teams nationally with 12 sacks. The flip side: USC is tied for third, having given up only seven sacks.
Johnathan Franklin (857 yards) and Derrick Coleman (639 yards) are a tandem of speed and power. Quarterback Kevin Prince's sleight-of-hand gives the pistol offense powder.
The Trojans give up 110.3 yards rushing per game, ranking them 16th nationally against the run. That's after Oregon ran for 209 yards last week. If UCLA runs for 209 the Bruins probably are in the game.
UCLA has a 5-17 road record in four seasons under Coach Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins have given up 31 or more points in 13 of those losses, including 60 to Oregon (2010), 59 to Brigham Young (2008), 55 to Arizona State (2010), 48 to Arizona (2011), 45 to Stanford (2011) and 41 to California (2008).
In their last road game, the Bruins were beaten by Utah, 31-6.
The last the last time UCLA beat USC in the Coliseum was in 1997.
Lots of little things to consider and be mindful of.
I am also sure things will get chippy here and there...it always does. So, USC needs to keep focused.
- - -
Now, for my thoughts...
I listened to College GameDay on the radio this morning on the way into work.
The hosts were doing their best to hype up the game tonight. It means a lot to us as fans but I am not fooled about the pundits caring. There was the focus on Matt Barkley's future at USC, there was the focus on UCLA "representing" the Pac-12 South in the upcoming title game.
Then they got to their predictions....
I have seen a lot in my life, I have seen enough things in my life from both the personal and professional realms to know that anything can happen.
I will never forget 13-9.
I always get a kick out the punditry writing checks that they don't have to cash.
They did it again today...saying that USC will score at will on UCLA or score buckets of points.
Maybe they will, I hope they do...but this is a rivalry game.
I think the line is too high. I think UCLA is playing with some purpose. Every game gives them more practice time for the future. Even if they lose both of these next two games there is still a chance that they can play in a bowl game and get 15 extra practices.
They will get a waiver.
Slick Rick is slippery enough to work this scenario to keep his job...and continue to spew his crap.
Both teams have talent...the issue is what has each staff done with that talent? We have seen both, the comparison is stark. USC has the edge there.
Lane Kiffin is going to earn his check tonight.
He needs to ensure that there is not let down from last weeks emotional win against Oregon.
Matt Barkley needs to light it up today if he wants to get to NYC for the Heisman ceremony. If Barkley has aspirations of leaving after this season for the NFL then he needs to light UCLA up.
Now, that is the nervous Nellie in me...Here is the flip side.
This is not 2006. USC is playing with purpose, they want to send a message for next year. USC is playing to send a message to those recruits they covet.
The message is simple...even when out of "the discussion" because of the sanctions USC still matters. This is a top five team. If this team stays intact it will be a preseason top five team, maybe even higher.
I want this game more than I wanted the one in 2006....That year I expected USC would win.
Matt Barkley is not John David Booty (no disrespect intended to a great Trojan), UCLA's DC is no Dewayne Walker. This game is at home.
This team has come so far after being left for dead. Even with the coming schollie reductions this team will still make some noise.
A win tonight further cements the joke of the Pac-12 and their meaningless title game.
USC's bragging rights to own L.A. is there for the taking...
- - -