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USC Trojans Football: 5 Areas of Vulnerability for UCLA

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2016

USC Trojans Football: 5 Areas of Vulnerability for UCLA

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    With the Trojans' annual crosstown rivalry game against UCLA fast approaching, many are questioning whether USC has what takes to continue its decade-plus long domination of the powder blue and gold boys.

    And to be certain, this years version of the Bruins do not even remotely resemble those of recent years past.

    Sporting a very efficient offense put in place by its first-year coach Jim Mora Jr., UCLA finds themselves with a better record (8-2) than the Trojans and led by a redshirt freshman quarterback (Brett Hundley) who doesn't know better, the Bruins fully expect to win this game in front of a home crowd that expects the same.

    So what are the Trojans to do? How can Lane Kiffin and his staff prepare their team to meet an opponent who would love nothing more than to prove that it's the new power in Los Angeles.

    Well, fortunately for Kiffin, the Trojans and their legions of fans, UCLA—despite its significant improvement—does have weaknesses.

    This slideshow will look at five areas where the Bruins can be had and how USC can take advantage of these deficiencies in UCLA's game.

    Focus on these areas and this game is yours for the taking Coach Kiffin.

    Fail to do so and....well, you know...

No. 5: UCLA Isn't Very Efficient Inside the Red Zone

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    Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. UCLA has a very, very good offense.

    So good in fact, that in order to find something for Trojan defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to smile about, I had to look long and hard, but at long last, I succeeded.

    In fact, there are a couple of areas where the Bruins offense leaves something to be desired and the first of these is its red-zone offense which—quite frankly—isn't very good.

    Ranked  a very mediocre 64th in the nation in this category, UCLA doesn't always find scoring opportunities when inside its opponents 20-yard line.

    There are many reasons for this—not the least of which is that their quarterback is very young—but the point is that when the Bruins get into scoring position, Kiffin Sr. needs to unleash his young charges.

    With a short field working to his advantage, Kiffin's defense can be very effective for one very important reason which will be revealed in the next slide.

No. 4: The Bruins Give Up a LOT of Plays Where They Lose Yardage

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    Despite an offense that ranks 13th in total yards, 22nd in scoring and 17th in passing efficiency, UCLA has one very significant chink in its armor, and this plays right into the Trojans hands.

    You see, USC has been very good this year when it comes to getting into its opponents backfield and throwing them for losses. So good that it is tied for fourth in the nation in that very important statistic.

    This bodes well for the cardinal and gold because UCLA has been positively horrible when it comes to getting tossed for a loss.

    In fact, in the nation, the Bruins are only better than three teams in this category.

    If an opportunistic defense led by linemen Morgan Breslin and George Uko can get penetration into the Bruins backfield, it can put its offense in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations.

    And that can only be advantageous for the Trojans on Saturday.

No. 3: USC's Offense Can Take Advantage of UCLA's Defense

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    In a game where strengths versus weaknesses will play a large role, USC's prolific offense should have a field day against a Bruin defense that is very mediocre in 2012.

    Ranked a very pedestrian 75th in the nation in total defense, UCLA has been vulnerable across the board when its opponents have the ball.

    How weak is UCLA's defense? Well, opponents are averaging 411 yards a game against it, and that, my friends, isn't very good.

    Better still from the Trojans' perspective is that the Bruins haven't faced the weapons that USC has in store for them.

    Ranked 27th in the nation in total offense, the Trojans should have their way with the Bruins defense as long as they don't turn the ball over.

    Of course, as anyone who has followed the Trojans over the last few games knows, that is a very big "if."

No. 2: Efficiently Defending the Pass Isn't a Bruin Strength

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    On the defensive side of the ball, UCLA has issues but its run-stopping ability isn't too bad as evidenced by its being ranked 44th in that category.

    While this statistic might not blow anyone away, it is a far sight better than the futility the Bruins have exhibited this year when defending the pass.

    As the 65th best team in the nation in pass efficiency defense, which takes a variety of passing stats into consideration, UCLA has given up yards in very large chunks.

    Which is the same way the Trojans like to gobble up yards via their own very efficient passing game.

No. 1: Forget Efficiency, the Bruins Simply Can't Defend the Pass

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    OK, let's forget the fancy statistics and get down to brass tacks. UCLA leaves a lot to be desired when defending the pass, period.

    How bad are the Bruins in total pass defense?

    How does 103rd in the nation grab you?

    Having given up 2664 yards through the first 10 games, the guys from Westwood have shown a propensity to allow yards through the air in big chunks, which is very good news for a Trojan team that is ranked 17th in the nation in passing offense.

    So is it likely that Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley and his cadre of talented receivers featuring all-everything Marqise Lee rains down footballs in abundance this Saturday in Pasadena?

    What do you think?

Conclusion

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    For the first time in years, there is doubt as to which Los Angeles college football team is superior.

    UCLA comes into this game sporting a better record, ranking and will have a fired-up crowd screaming itself hoarse throughout the contest.

    Perhaps as importantly, the bitter taste of last year's 50-0 thrashing at the hands of the men of Troy will still be burning in their collective memory.

    Led by first-year coach Jim Mora Jr. and redshirt freshman QB Hundley—neither of whom have direct knowledge of USC's dominance—UCLA will enter this weekend's game firmly convinced that it can add to the Trojans' misery in 2012.

    Whether they are right depends on USC exploiting those areas where the Bruins are vulnerable.

    If the Trojans can tear at the soft underbelly of UCLA's flaws, they can continue their mastery of their southland neighbors.

    Otherwise, it could be a very, very long day for USC and their hordes of fans.

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