Make no mistake about it, the 2020 iteration (if we get it) of the USC Trojans battling UCLA should be a fun one. And for many reason.
USC should enter this both as a preseason heavy favorite, and if all goes to plan, as an even heavier in-season favorite ahead of this matchup.
The Trojans could very well be staring down an already-clinched Pac-12 Championship Game appearance and a potential 11-win regular season. That is, of course, if we just assume they drop one against either Alabama or Oregon, the only two games they’re not heavy favorites to win right now.
The UCLA game closes out the Trojans’ Pac-12 schedule and goes a week before they host Notre Dame to finish the year.
When looking at this game as a whole, the Trojans hold a distinct advantage in just about every dimension of the field, even position for position.
The distinction between the two quarterbacks is probably the most glaring as Kedon Slovis is a surefire Heisman Trophy candidate this year and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is essentially playing his third year on the hot seat.
The wide receiver position is deep for the Trojans, and not so the same for the Bruins. USC holds several players past the No. 3 spot on their depth chart that could essentially be starters on the UCLA roster and even more below that that could also log heavy snap assignments based on talent alone.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, Drake London and Kyle Ford each return as proven, reliabel targets while Bru McCoy leads a cast of unproven, highly-touted youngsters for the Trojans in one of the nation’s deepest receiving corps for 2020.
Running back may be a bit closer of a race as do-it-all RB Demetric Felton is a tough ask to cover in the passing game and also a shifty guy on the ground. Stopping him will be task No. 1 for the Trojans on defense.
UCLA has a solid core on their offensive line but the pass-rushing presence for the Trojans is an unheralded group in their own regard. We’ll know a ton more about the USC defense by the time we get to the 11th game of the season.
As good as the defense is on paper to open the year, it’s likely that the coverage units will be tested as the majority of USC’s opponents this year will undoubtedly be playing from behind. Talanoa Hufanga is a preseason Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list member while Chris Steele flashed a season ago. This is a young but experienced secondary that should blanket the UCLA receivers and force multiple errant throws by DTR.
This also leads us to the fact that just about everywhere on the sidelines, the Trojans also have the advantage over the Bruins. Clay Helton vs Chip Kelly and Helton’s assistants vs Kelly’s assistants all side in favor of the Cardinal and Gold.
There is much more to be learned ahead of this matchup and it’s all to be seen if we even get this matchup this year, let alone if everyone is healthy upon this meeting as well.
Still, on paper, ahead of the season, the Trojans should enter this game as double-digit favorites over their nemesis, and rightfully so.