Quick Hit: USC vs. UCLA

By John Harris
November 14, 2012

John Harris takes on this classic Rose Bowl rivalry -- a game that has a potential Pac 12 title on the line.

A rivalry in every sense of the word, USC v. UCLA evokes memories of days of yore.  Troy Aikman v. Rodney Peete.  Gary Beban v. OJ.  Todd Marinovich v. Tommy Maddox.  Marcus.  Gaston.  Johnnie Morton.  JJ Stokes.  Junior Seau.  Jerry Robinson.  Tony Boselli.  Jonathan Ogden.

When these two get together, memories ensue.  The problem is that recently, the memories have been one sided as USC has dominated much of the action since 1999, with UCLA's only win over that time frame a massive upset in 2006.  But, 2012 is a different year.  

The gist is this: Winner wins the Pac 12 South and gets a shot at the Pac 12 North winner, presumably Oregon, in the Pac 12 Championship game.  UCLA has a half game lead in the South over USC currently, but a win would lock up the title even with a game vs. Stanford on Thanksgiving weekend. If USC wins, UCLA could tie the Trojans with a win over Stanford, but USC would have the head-to-head tiebreaker and await a rematch with Oregon.

Most of you have seen USC this year and know how powerful the USC offense is, the key to which is WR Marquise Lee.  The sophomore may see some time on the defensive side of the ball this week as well and the Trojans need his athleticism and production against the Bruins explosive offense.  UCLA QB Brett Hundley and RB Johnathan Frankin lead an offense that is 13th in the nation in total offense, averaging 497 yards per game.  So, Lee may get a lot more time on that side of the ball than he ever before.

The key is going to be Franklin running the rock, moving the chains and keeping USC's offense off the field for long stretches at a time.  When USC has the ball, QB Matt Barkley will shred the Bruins 103rd ranked pass defense, unless DTs Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh get to him with an effective pass rush.

Unfortunately, even playing at home in the Rose Bowl, the Bruins defense won't stop the Trojans often enough to get into the Pac 12 Championship game for a second straight year.  Lee will have another double digit game receiving, but the star in this one is going to be WR Robert Woods who'll get targeted more than he has at any point this year.  He'll have his best game against the porous UCLA secondary in the biggest game to date for the Trojans.

USC - 42 vs. UCLA - 34