Everyone has their story about the “best” or most memorable USC-UCLA rivalry game. That’s not what you will get here. Enjoy the mass of relevant numbers.
Over UCLA’s 29 victories against USC football, they win by an average of 10.62 points. In USC’s 46 wins, they do so by an average of 16.76. Furthermore, USC has scored 50 or more points on UCLA five separate times, which is the third most behind Washington State (7) and Oregon State (6). On the flip side, the closest UCLA ever got was 48, which took two overtimes and the final score was 48-41.
UCLA’s largest margins of victory were 39, 34, and 25. USC’s were 76, 52, and 50— and no, those weren’t the ones that were vacated.
To the Bruins’ credit, they do own the longest winning streak of eight straight wins. However, even if they started a streak twice that long right now, they would not be at .500 over the entire series.
Munch on that.
If UCLA managed to beat USC for the next 15 years, they still could not tie the overall record. And USC’s longest streak was seven until it was broken in 2006. That was immediately followed by a streak of five. Whoops. It’s not all about a good burst. Sustained success means more.
Besides, during the Trojan streak of seven, they won by an average of over three touchdowns (21.14) and Bruins won by a mere 7.13 in their eight game streak. Just look at the last two games as examples. USC won by 50-0 in 2011, while UCLA won 38-28 in 2012. Speaking of 2012…
Much like last year, UCLA is ranked one higher than USC going into the game. Instead of 17 and 18, it’s 22 and 23. Unlike last year, USC is not riding off its apathy of a five game streak in the series and on a death spiral of a season. The trajectory for this USC team is probably the exact opposite.
At this point, most people have heard of Brett Hundley. He is UCLA’s redshirt sophomore mobile quarterback. He has also been able to throw well, racking up over 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air. Expect him to throw a couple of swing passes. When rushed, he may make poor decisions, either throwing into coverage or taking off with the ball on the ground.
He is UCLA’s second leading rusher, evident in how he has eluded the pass rush to make a big gain. That just depends on whether or not he has been rattled enough. He does not get much help from his offensive line, which plays into USC’s favor.
USC has a strong defensive front seven. They rank #11 in sacks, with 32 on the season and #13 in tackles for loss, with 82 on the season. Interestingly enough, UCLA’s offense has allowed 32 sacks and 82 tackles for loss, good for #112 and #117 in the nation, respectively. USC could possibly generate enough pressure on Hundley using their 2-4-5/4-2-5 set (whichever you prefer to refer to it by) rather than the 5-2/3-4. USC’s defense has hit opponents for a total loss of 567 yards in sacks and tackles of loss— meaning they have tackled their opponents back over five and a half football fields.
The two lines appear to be an inverse of each other. A lot has to do with the inexperience along UCLA’s offensive linemen, starting two freshmen and two sophomores against Arizona State last week. Later in the game, it became three freshmen because a starter was lost to injury. Injury has plagued their line the entire season.
To make matters worse for them, the center, Jake Brendel, has had a habit of snapping the ball low. That should give Leonard Williams and the other defensive linemen precious extra seconds to reach the quarterback. They must be careful not to lose contain and let Hundley run off for a big gain.
The corners and safeties will have to look out for UCLA receiver Shaq Evans. Yes, the Shaq Evans who, way back in September, said, “Beating them last year and knowing that we’re going to beat them again this year – especially two years ago when they beat us 50-0 – we owe them a little bit when we go to the Coliseum because last time we were there they embarrassed us. So this year, we’re going to try to embarrass them, honestly.”
He is their biggest threat at that position and can pose problems for either Josh Shaw or Kevon Seymour, especially with Seymour’s injury. To add more fuel to the fire, Evans also purported to be better than USC receiver Marqise Lee. Yet, interestingly enough, Evans lacks a Biletnikoff Award on his shelf and only ties Lee in receiving yards in this season— Lee, who sat for three games and played limited in many.
UCLA has also done some strange things on offense. They opted to play some defensive players on offense. Most notably, freshman linebacker, Myles Jack has played more and more at running back with the injury of Jordan James. UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has utilized various trick plays throughout the season. He has even had the Bruins line up in unorthodox formations to confuse opponents.
The Bruin defense has been moderate, but, as seen from last season, they have big play ability. They have dangerous linebackers in Jordan Zumwalt and the infamous Anthony Barr. Although Barr is a potent force on UCLA’s defense, he can be neutralized if blocked correctly. Zumwalt, on the other hand tends to get flagged a lot.
Another aspect that may be of help to the Trojans is the penalty department. At times this season, USC has been flagged a lot, but it is nothing like UCLA. The Bruins rank dead last in the nation in total penalties. In every other penalty category, they ranked between second and third to last.
Don’t forget about the special teams in all of this. As many kicks USC has blocked this season, UCLA managed to block almost as many. Be on the lookout for what could possibly be an intriguing special teams battle.
With so many storylines and city dominance at stake, this matchup should prove to be entertaining. It would be interesting to see a sanctioned USC team that was injured beyond belief and had their first ever midseason head coach firing to take it to a UCLA that is supposedly on an upswing to finish out a double digit win season.
Time for the men to fight and take the Victory Bell back from UCLA. It looks better in cardinal, anyway.
The #23 USC Trojans (9-3) hosts the #22 UCLA Bruins (8-3) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this Saturday. Kick-off is set at 5:00pm PT and will be televised on ABC.