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Staff Predictions: USC at UCLA

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Both USC and UCLA have not had the season they thought they would have at the beginning of the season. Which team wants it more?

UCLA v USC
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Nate Meadors #22 of the UCLA Bruins breaks up a pass to Steven Mitchell Jr. #4 of the USC Trojans during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Nathan

The USC Trojans are in their final stretch of the season, with two more games left, the Trojans have an opportunity to win six games and make it to their seventh consecutive bowl game. This feat will not be easy however, as the Trojans are preparing to play the UCLA Bruins.

On paper, this should be an easy win for the Trojans. The Bruins are a measly 2-8 this year, combined with injuries to key players and questions at quarterback. However, the Bruins are always a threat, and the Trojans are very aware of that. Head coach Chip Kelly has experience, and Bruins quarterback Wilton Speight has been playing well in his last couple of games.

The Trojans on the other hand have not been having one of their best seasons either. Blowing out Oregon State two weeks before, the Trojans had a step back last week, giving up a 14-point lead and losing their second consecutive home game to Cal. Even though the Trojans have been having a season no one expected to see, quarterback JT Daniels has had his moments. If Daniels can have a good game against the Bruins, the Trojans will have a strong chance of winning their sixth game on this season.

In a loud Rose Bowl environment, the Trojans and Bruins will play a hard-fought game. Both defenses will dominate the entire game; with under two minutes to go, Daniels will lead the Trojans into field goal range, allowing Michael Brown to kick the go-ahead field goal to ultimately win the game.

The Trojans win this nail biter, 23-20.

Kenneth

This has been a nightmare season for these Trojans. The expectations on JT Daniels were great in the beginning of the season, and they proved too much for the 18 year old true freshman. Daniels should be given time to progress, but his best games of the season were in September and October: against Washington State and Colorado. Since those home stints, Daniels has not shown the development that many Trojan fans would have liked. His supposed running ability in high school has not translated into pocket mobility or pocket presence. He has not been able to move within the pocket to make the necessary throws.

Now what does this have to do with USC’s upcoming battle against UCLA?

Well, I don’t like the Trojans in this match up. Under Clay Helton’s play calling, USC has shied away from the deep ball. Yes, jump ball maven Michael Pittman Jr. has been out. However, Tyler Vaughns is a speedster that Clay Helton has not used properly.

I expect USC’s offense to sputter against the Bruins. Helton’s poor play calling and decision making will doom the Trojans in one of the most poorly played USC-UCLA matchups of all time.

The Trojans fall. 12-6

Kohryu

While the two Los Angeles teams have a combined season record of 7-13, each team does have something they are playing for. With No. 3 Notre Dame looming next week, USC needs a win on Saturday to clinch a bowl berth and any hope at a winning record. Meanwhile, UCLA will be playing to try and prevent what may be the program's most humiliating season ever. Not only are they 2-8, but they recently got their Bruin Bear statue painted in USC colors, a traditional crosstown prank.

However, the battle off the field trying to vandalize the opponents statue, might be the most interesting part of this matchup in a forgettable season for both teams. UCLA's terrible defense, which is allowing 33.3 points per game, should allow USC to score enough, and the USC defense should play well enough.

USC 31-20

Aaron

It’s finally rivalry week in Los Angeles, but this year it doesn’t seem as exciting as years past, as both USC and UCLA have been struggling mightily so far this season. On one hand, UCLA has had a horrendous season with first-year head coach Chip Kelly, having only won two out of ten games this year. However, it hasn’t been much better on the other side, as USC has had a very up-and-down season, to say the least. A great example to use on this inconsistent team would be their past two weeks, with the Trojans blowing out Oregon State the first week, but sputtering and blowing a 14-point lead against Cal the next. Whichever version of the Trojans we see this week will determine the outcome of this game.

The Trojan defense needs to key in on UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight, who didn’t exactly shine in his first three years at Michigan but has been heating up for the Bruins in the past couple of weeks. Speight is most recently coming off of a great passing day against Arizona State, with over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns. You can never underestimate Chip Kelly’s offense, and Speight running it well spells bad news for the Trojans.

On the other side, freshman quarterback JT Daniels has not had the season people had been expecting from him, turning in mediocre performances in many games this year. How he responds to the brutal loss against Cal and how he handles his first-ever college rivalry game will say a lot about who he is as a player. He is undoubtedly the X-factor in this game, and I have a gut feeling that he will step it up this week to get a huge win over rival UCLA.

USC 27 UCLA 23

Matthew

With bowl eligibility and possibly jobs on the line, Does USC rise to the occasion against UCLA?

The state of USC football feels as if it’s in a pretty bad place after the loss to Cal last week. The talk has been on the future of USC head coach Clay Helton. The reality right now is that if the Trojans lose this week, then it could mean the end of the Helton era.

If you look at USC compared to UCLA, the Trojans should win this game handedly, however it isn’t as simple as we all think. UCLA is coming off a very competitive game with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Thanks to three false start penalties, the Bruins were unable to pull off the upset in Tempe. Chip Kelly has the Bruins playing better football despite being 2-8. USC on the other hand will look to turn it around offensively. The Trojans took a 14-0 lead over Cal in the first half, however the Golden Bears went on a 15-0 scoring run while USC had no answer due to bad snaps, turnovers, and sacks that stalled the drive. USC will get wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. back from injury which will be a key boost to the Trojans and quarterback JT Daniels in the passing game. USC’s offensive line should have some success getting a push against a UCLA run defense that ranks 11th in the Pac-12. UCLA gives up 215 yards per game and could have a difficult time with running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai.

In rivalry games, anything can indeed happen. Records don’t matter between USC and UCLA. This game could go either way. I expect the Trojans to play with some fire in this game and come out to make a statement, however it’s hard to see USC blow out UCLA, given how the team has issues putting teams away this season. The Victory Bell stays at USC for another season.

USC- 28 UCLA-17

Dina

USC blows UCLA out of the water talent wise and on paper would win this game impressively. Execution however is the Trojans’ downfall. USC has many struggles, maintaining a lead, creating turnovers, and sustaining offensive drives are the most glaring. While the Trojans do not have to play perfect football to get a win over their crosstown rival, they do have to clean up at least two of these things.

Both JT Daniels and Wilton Speight have had lack luster first years with their new teams, and tomorrows outcome may just come down to which quarterback has the better game. Where Daniels and USC have a huge advantage is at wide receiver. Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown are weapons any team would be salivating at the mouth to have, Daniels just needs to get them the ball quickly and efficiently.

USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware has been having solid games though the Trojan offensive line needs some work, and will be an integral part of the offensive if Daniels wants to get USC on a rhythm.

The Bruins have some playmakers on defense that might make things difficult for a struggling Trojan offense. Defensive backs Adarius Pickett and Quentin Lake have 169 total tackles between the two of them and three interceptions.

Vaughns, Pittman Jr., and St. Brown all have a height advantage against these two Bruins and Daniels who likes to throw jump and deep balls will have to take advantage of that. I predict Pittman Jr. will shine once again and leave the Rose Bowl with two touchdowns and 70 plus yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, I feel that as long as USC can create pressure on Speight and force some bad decisions, the backfield will walk away with some interceptions. Speight’s touchdown to interception ratio is 5-4, and unlike second string quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, he is not a dual-threat.

USC has too much to lose if they fail to execute in this game, so I predict they will come out with a fire that stays lit throughout the night.

USC 30 UCLA 20