Tuesday night after practice Clay Helton once again spoke to the media broke down the USC Trojans’ next opponent the UCLA Bruins. Helton spent quite a bit of time focusing on the UCLA defense. A hallmark of a Jim Mora coached team is an exceptional defense according to Helton and this particular Bruins defense starts on the defensive line. Helton called out Eddie Vanderdoes as the “rock” in the middle of their defensive front which has plenty of dangerous pass rushers. In the secondary the Bruins have plenty of experience.
The Trojans, however, just put up 26 points on the Washington Huskies who currently rank 19th in total defense. The Bruins rank an impressive 26th. While Helton praised the UCLA pass rushing abilities, Washington is 23 in the nation in team sacks with 28, UCLA is 42nd with 24 team sacks. The Huskies had only 1 sack, 0 hurries, and 5 tackles for loss against USC.
One area of concern for USC is not anything new but given that Sam Darnold has thrown an interception in 4 of the last 5 games the UCLA secondary could have a huge impact on this game. The Bruins have 13 interceptions on the year which is good for 14th in the nation. While USC’s interceptions are brought up every week it has not caused too much of a problem because the Trojans keep winning, and they haven’t really played a close game since Utah at the end of September. Keep in mind though that if/when USC does get into a one possession type of game then interceptions could prove fatal.
On offense the Bruins are really struggling. Prior to the start of the season UCLA wanted to move to a more pro-style, run-heavy offense. This season, however, the Bruins running game has not looked good. As a team the entire UCLA Bruins offense has run for a mere 872 yards on 302 carries that’s 2.9 yards per carry for a pro-style offense. For comparison Ronald Jones II has 772 yards on just 123 carries. The entire UCLA offense has 13 rushing touchdowns. Jones has 8. It should also be pointed out that RoJo spent a huge chunk of this season as the number 2 back. UCLA’s rushing offense is second from the bottom. The Bruins rank 127th in rushing out of 128 teams. The USC rushing defense, conversely, is 37th in the nation.
It is safe to say that if UCLA is going to have a shot at winning this game they will have to do it through the air. Winning through the air though might be a problem though. While Clay Helton did praise the Bruins talented receiving targets their current quarterback Mike Fafaul has struggled do deliver wins for the Bruins while filling in for Josh Rosen. Fafaul is completing just over half of his 198 passing attemps on the season but he has 10 interceptions and only 9 touchdowns. Given the havoc that the USC defensive front has caused for quarterbacks like Jake Browning and Davis Webb it may be a tough day for Mike Fafaul and the Bruins passing attack as well.
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