USC Football: Trojans' Road to Rose Bowl Begins with Win over Bruins

Mike HoagCorrespondent IINovember 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Running back Curtis McNeal #22 of the USC Trojans breaks away on a 73 yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This was supposed to be the year the USC Trojans returned the national championship to the Coliseum. Their preseason No. 1 ranking put larger-than-life expectations on Lane Kiffin’s program.

While the realization of a national title is out of the cards for the Trojans, the chance to play spoiler to three rivals (UCLA, Notre Dame, Oregon) and earn a surprising bid in this season’s Rose Bowl is not completely out of the realm of possibility.

UCLA is standing in the way of the Trojan’s chance at redemption. A win over the Bruins would give them the Pac-12 South crown and a date with the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Sure, it’s a long shot.  It goes beyond a long shot right now. It’s an improbable run that would include knocking off the No. 17 and No. 1 teams in a span of three weeks in order to earn the rights to play a likely Top 15 Nebraska team in Pasadena.

It’s basically a home game for the Trojans.

How happy would Barkley and his teammates be to be smelling roses instead of bowling in a non-BCS matchup against a non-contender?

After suffering bowl absence for the past two seasons due to NCAA sanctions, the Trojans have every motivation in the world to get things done down the stretch and make a run at the Rose Bowl.

All of that can’t happen, though, if the Trojans fall short against the Bruins. However, as history tells us, it’s going to be an uphill battle for their cross-town rivals, who have lost 12 of the last 13 matchups in this series.

This year’s Bruins team could be the squad that breaks away from the trend and puts the finishing touches on the disappointment that will be the 2012 Trojans. Their offense has accounted for nearly 500 yards per game with a balanced rushing and passing attack that’s putting up 37 points per game.

Still, the Trojans are no slouches themselves. They’ve shown they have the ability to put up points as well.

The Bruins defense has been susceptible to being beat by the pass this season. Last week, Mike Leach’s Washington State team bounced back from a 30-point halftime deficit on the arm of Connor Halliday. Halliday tossed five touchdowns and put up over 300 yards on the Bruins.

UCLA is also 103rd in the nation against the pass defensively, surrendering 2,664 yards and 7.05 yards per attempt through 10 games. That’s a problem because Barkley and his boys are 17th in passing offense, averaging over 300 yards per game and over eight yards per completion.

The matchup is there. Barkley and his weapons Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are going to pick apart the Bruins and earn their rematch and opportunity to knock off the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game.