One of the more interesting match-ups for Saturday’s game will be the USC offense against the ucla defense.
The speculation has been that the reason SC didn’t get much positive movement in the BCS was be cause the offense never seems to fire on all cylinders. Scoring only 17 points against Arizona and Cal, Scoring only 7 points in the 2nd half against ASU and struggling for almost 3 whole quarters against Stanford clearly gave some voters pause when doing their weekly rankings.
Even though Mark Sanchez is a first year starter with almost three years in the system it has a lot of people scratching their heads as to why this highly talented offense still can’t find an identity. Many will point to Sanchez’s gunslinger mentality that has been in check recently with conservative game plans, while others will point to the in game play calling of Steve Sarkisian; but whatever the reasons a lot of us, right or wrong, would love to see a lot more productivity out of all this talent that this program has amassed.
The added intrigue is that SC will be playing against a defense coached by former USC assistant DeWayne Walker and he has shown a propensity of being able to give SC some fits in how he defends against our offense. There is also a pretty good chance that OC Norm Chow may give Walker a few tips on how Sarkisian is thinking and that can be another thorn is SC’s side.
With ucla the #2 pass defense in the nation, right behind #1 USC, it is easy to suspect that SC, with all the talent they have in the backfield, that this will be the perfect set up for a ground attack type game. The key will be to move the ball to outside away from ucla's Price and Harwell who are absolute monsters in the middle. Running it up the gut in my eyes is counterproductive. If SC can move the ball on the ground ucla would have to bring the safeties up to counter and leave their corners in man coverage. That’s not a bad thing for SC because the ucla corners are average to good but not great. The ucla linebacker corps is not the fastest so if the RB’s can get to the outside they should be able to get chunks of yards at a time.
The ucla defense is coming off a great game against ASU where they held the Sun Devils to only 2 field goals and only 120 yards on offense. Now SC had their own success against ASU so while It’s a good performance for ucla its also ASU who has regressed from where they were last season.
Most important ucla knows they can play spoiler just like they did in 2006.
"There's no better way to go out than to beat 'SC, and send them to the Holiday Bowl or something like that," UCLA senior wide receiver Marcus Everett said."When you're playing an opponent that is as highly thought of as USC is, you look for ways to see how you're going to knock them off," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
With a victory, USC would play Penn State Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl. A UCLA victory would lock the Trojans in a three-way tie with Oregon and Oregon State for the conference title and, by tiebreaker, send Oregon State to the Rose Bowl.
In 2006, UCLA played the spoiler role when it beat USC, 13-9, preventing the Trojans from competing in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Instead, USC played in the Rose Bowl game against Michigan.
Not surprising, I would do the same thing if I were in their shoes...anything for the added motivation. But in the end they have to get it done on the field. I don't really see a way for the bruin offense to put up any significant amount of points against USC's defense, I don't care what Norm Chow dreams up. The talent level is so low on offense that Craft is bound to give SC probably 2 picks that wet them up for scores and may be all they need. The ucla defense though could give SC fits if they have an off day and that is where Sarkisian needs to keep his wits about him.
I think SC will just wear the ucla defense down and by the second half open things up.