It’s that time again when crosstown foes USC and UCLA meet on the football field.
Saturday’s clash at the Rose Bowl will determine the winner of the Pacific 12 Conference South Division, who will then face undefeated Oregon, No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll, and No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, in the conference title game.
USC has taken the last five encounters, but UCLA is much improved after hiring Head Coach Jim Mora Jr., who has the Bruins at No. 17 in the AP and BCS standings.
The Trojans entered as preseason No. 1, but fell to Stanford, Arizona and Oregon by a combined 21 points.
How did this happen with senior quarterback Matt Barkley (2,972 yards with 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions) leading the charge?
Barkley has Robert Woods (61 catches for 656 yards and 10 TDs) and Marqise Lee (98 receptions for 1,447 yards with 13 TDs) at his disposal.
In the backfield, there is Silas Redd (732 yards and nine TDs) and Curtis McNeal (497 yards).
USC’s defense has been inconsistent, and is paced by linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, along with defensive end Morgan Breslin and safety T.J. McDonald.
USC (7-3 and 5-3 in conference) is ranked 18th in the BCS and 21st in the AP, and are still dangerous after tallying 40 points or more in four games, including a 62-51 loss to the Ducks.
The Bruins (8-2 and 5-2 in conference) are riding a four-game winning streak and have redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley (2,739 yards with 24 TDs and nine picks) setting up the offense.
Hundley can hand the ball to Johnathan Franklin (1,270 yards and eight TDs), who just set the school career rushing mark.
Hundley’s favorite targets are Shaquelle Evans (39 catches for 571 yards) and tight end Joseph Fauria (31 receptions for 417 yards and nine TDs).
UCLA’s only setbacks came against Oregon State (27-20), and UC Berkeley (43-17).
Defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Anthony Barr like to rush the quarterback, but cornerback Sheldon Price and safety Andrew Abbott might be busy trying to limit USC’s potent passing attack because the game could be high scoring.