Roundtable Discussion: Re-examining USC-UCLA

Harry How

UCLA bested USC 38-28 in front of 83,277 at the Rose Bowl. What happened?

1. What was most disappointing about USC's loss at UCLA?

Paragon: Same thing that has been plaguing this team for weeks. Poor defense, too many turnovers and horrible playcalling/adjustments from the head coach.

Trevor Wong: The clear lack of preparation and focus. You can't expect to spot 24 points to your crosstown rival and expect to climb a mountain on the road. It just wasn't going to happen.

Shotgun Spratling: 3rd-and-13. The most disappointing thing was USC's inability to get UCLA off the field on the Bruins final scoring drive. After being much-maligned following the Oregon game, the defense came back with a solid effort against Arizona State, but couldn't come up clutch when it was most needed against its rival. Instead, once again, a soft Cover 2 look allowed a 3rd-and-long conversion.

Will Robinson: Besides everything? It has to be the defense. Though it did pressure Brett Hundley more than expected, it missed 23 tackles! It missed five against Arizona State. Sure, Matt Barkley’s picks certainly didn’t help. The offense scored 28 points, which, in college ball, isn’t enough. But it did its part more than the defense did theirs. Also, as Shotgun noted, the terrible 3rd-and-long conversion woes continued. First, against Arizona. Now, against the Bruins. Those two plays could have swung the two losses into wins, and this roundtable would be about 'SC's chances going toe-to-toe with Notre Dame in an epic clash on the heels of the Pac-12 Title Game.

2. How much of the loss falls on coaching and how much are the players culpable?

Paragon: Certainly, Barkley is responsible. No one is throwing it to the other team but him. Marqise Lee has to bear some responsibility as well, he has had some ball control issues this season. Monte has to go, his defenses just don't cut it in the college game. Kiffin goes through some odd stretches of play calling.....same ole, same ole...

Trevor Wong: A lot of it falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff in putting their players in the best possible position to succeed, and that means tweaking your system to fit their strengths. The Tampa 2 defense really doesn't work in the college game if that hasn't been any evident already, and a roster laden with four- and five-star recruits shouldn't be struggling as mightily as this Trojans roster has all year long. These are kids after all, and they need direction — something that has been quite lacking from the top this entire season.

Shotgun Spratling: I'm usually one to blame the players when it's big mistakes that swing the game. And USC's turnovers allowed UCLA to jump out to the early 24-0 lead. However, there were definitely some coaching deficiencies. Once again, the Trojans D gave up a big third conversion. The team didn't seem ready at the beginning of the game and despite him running for 161 yards and averaging 7.7 yards per carry, Curtis McNeal got forgotten at times (no carries on the first two drives of the second half -- both three-and-outs).

Will Robinson: If it’s a percentages game, I’d place 65% of it on coaching, 30% on the players and the final 5% on being limited in practice. In order: By game 12, Lane Kiffin’s play calling is a running joke. What happened to the masterful games last year against Notre Dame and Oregon? Why not feed "Moody" McNeal when he’s averaging over seven yards per carry when the game was within a possession? Monte’s defense: What more is there to say? So I won’t try to add more. But in fairness to the younger Kiffin, he didn’t throw the interceptions or fumble. That’s on the players. Penalties were cut down, even though it took over half the season. The last but has to do with that damn ‘s’ word: sanctions. Don’t try to say the team doesn’t have some level of depth. It does. But losing bodies with 10 fewer scholarship players coming in and 10 fewer scholarship players on the roster requires a new strategy. Pretty sure if Urban Meyer watched a USC practice, he’d have to leave Ohio State due to health problems.

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