USC vs. UCLA: Why Trojans' Playmakers Will Blow the Bruins Away

Randy ChambersAnalyst INovember 16, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 08: Robert Woods #2 of the USC Trojans celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates John Martinez #59, Marqise Lee #9 and Matt Barkley #7 against the Syracuse Orange in the first half during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

For the first time in a while, the UCLA-USC rivalry will finally have some meaning behind it.

When the USC Trojans travel to the Rose Bowl this Saturday to take on the UCLA Bruins, the Pac-12 South division will be up for grabs.

This is certainly not a game you want to miss at 3:05 p.m. ET on FOX.

A little fire has also been added to a rivalry that dates back to 1929, as USC fans decided to vandalize the UCLA sign on the Westwood campus. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the USC playmakers will do their fair share of damage as well.


There are simply too many star players on this offense to slow down.

UCLA has a lot of things going for it on the defensive side of the ball, particularly the defensive front that has helped contribute 38 sacks and 79 tackles for loss in 10 games. It is a much-improved unit from the team that allowed 50 points against USC last season.

However, the Bruins have not yet played an offense as explosive as the one they will face this weekend. Sorry, teams such as Cal, Oregon State and even a one-dimensional Nebraska team don't exactly count. Arizona was held to only 10 points, but even the Wildcats' offense has been inconsistent throughout the year, getting shut out by Oregon and needing overtime to beat Toledo.

USC enters this matchup averaging nearly seven yards a play. The team has produced over 400 yards of total offense in the last four games, including 500-yard performances against Oregon and Arizona. While this Trojans team struggles in other areas, moving the football is certainly not one of them.

The Bruins' front seven can get after it in pressuring the quarterback, but the pass defense has been suspect, as it currently ranks 10th in the Pac-12. According to USA Today, the team ranks 103rd in the country against the pass. Good luck covering a team that has an NFL prospect at the quarterback position and a plethora of receivers to throw the ball to.

UCLA has just allowed more than 450 yards in the air to Washington State and is allowing seven yards per pass attempt on the season.

Wide receiver Robert Woods has quietly caught 61 passes this year and has received a lot of single-coverage due to the other playmakers around him stepping up. Marqise Lee has already shown he can't be stopped with his combination of athleticism and size. These two receivers alone should have a field day against defensive backs who aren't exactly the best in the country.

And now with the recent emergence of true freshman Nelson Agholor, the Trojans have become unstoppable on the offensive end. The first-year player out of Tampa, Fla., caught six passes for 162 yards in a losing effort to the Oregon Ducks. He has the talent to be a first option on many college football teams, but happens to be the speedy slot receiver in this loaded offense.

These three receivers by themselves have combined for 24 of the 34 receiving touchdowns this season.

The problem is that USC throws the football to set up the run, and that is when we can talk about Curtis McNeal, who is fresh off his best game of the season last week by rushing for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Arizona State. Head coach Lane Kiffin also hopes that Silas Redd is able to return from injury, but it likely won't even matter in this matchup.

The Bruins have a pair of experienced cornerbacks in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, who according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, consider this the ultimate challenge.

"We have been tested a lot," Hester said. "This is kind of like the SATs."

But if the tests before the hardest one of them all haven’t gone so well, there is a cause of concern for when class is in session on Saturday.