The USC Trojans (4-5, 3-4) are hosting rivals UCLA (6-4, 4-3) after the Trojans received a miracle leading up to this game — the postponement of last week’s game against Cal due to COVID-19 limitations on their team.
The Trojans got an extra week of preparation while UCLA beat Colorado at the Rose Bowl last week.
While USC hasn’t been great this season — and UCLA’s record shows they’ve been a better team — statistically, they are both pretty average.
USC offensively is ranked first in the Pac-12 in passing yards with about 305 yards a game, while UCLA defensively is ranked last in passing yards allowed with about 267 per game so far. UCLA offensively is ranked fifth in both passing and rushing yards a game with 220 and 204 a game, respectively, while USC defensively is ranked eighth and seventh in the same categories allowing about 233 and 163, respectively, per game.
USC fans would’ve hoped to have junior quarterback Kedon Slovis for this game, as he’s beat UCLA in both of the last two seasons, but he’s a scratch for the game, and freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart has been announced as the starter for the rivalry game.
Interim head coach Donte Williams held a press conference for the media on Thursday and was asked about what Dart can do about UCLA’s defensive schemes.
“You know, it’s all about being comfortable, and it’s all about him going out there and trusting the guys on the field with him — and them trusting him — because he’s going to have to make the right reads and kind of sight unseen and adjust to things they do,” Williams said. “In this particular game, both teams always have a couple of things they maybe haven’t shown all year, so just to say he’s going to see exactly everything he’s seen on film won’t happen that particular way. There will be some new things out there, and it’s all about how he adjusts and how the guys on the field adjust with him.”
The passing game was largely successful due to solid play by junior wide receiver Drake London before he fractured his ankle against Arizona a few weeks ago. Now, the rest of the group has to fill in what he provided.
Williams was also asked about UCLA’s secondary and what the Trojans can exploit, seeing that he’s a guy who knows a little something about the secondary.
“I don’t know about exploit, I mean they still have a lot of good players back there,” he said. “They ask those guys to go out there on islands and play man to man, so they make their fair share of plays too. So a lot of those guys they have in the secondary, I know because I recruited or I watched them over the years so they still have some really good players. And you know, everybody sees guys giving up yards — they think it’s the secondary but it can be a backer or a [defensive] end covering somebody. So it adds up — it’s not just always on the secondary.”
In order for all of the pieces to line up, the running game has to improve — which it has slightly in the last few games. Senior running back Keaontay Ingram has received the bulk of the load, and he’ll likely continue in that role on Saturday against a Bruins team who gives up only about 124 rushing yards a game — which is second in the conference.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and the defense have to step up their game up front, and with a banged-up defensive line as is, the healthy ones have to try making up the difference. Nick Figueroa has been battling injuries all season and practiced on Tuesday, Korey Foreman didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday and may be a scratch against UCLA, and (hopefully) Tuli Tuipulotu and Drake Jackson should have a field day against the Bruins’ offensive line.
USC players and coaches have to come out with a well-thought plan of action against UCLA, and it would be an even bigger tragedy if they fail to do it after an extra week of planning.
If you look at the pattern of USC’s games this season and believe in little things like that, the Trojans are in line to beat UCLA.
But that’s a stretch, if we’re being honest.
Still standing by what was said on The Bruin Bible podcast — UCLA will likely win by a touchdown or more.
The game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and will be televised on FOX.