WeAreSC staffers discuss topics relating to the upcoming crosstown rivalry between USC and UCLA.
What is the key matchup for USC vs. UCLA?
Garry Paskwietz: I’m going to say the USC defensive front against the UCLA run game, particularly Myles Jack and Brett Hundley. The Trojans have been terrific lately up front led by Leonard Williams and Devon Kennard and they have a chance to neutralize the Bruins offense if they can keep Jack and Hundley from breaking big plays. Jack has given a huge boost to the Bruins as they’ve had a tough time replacing the run game production of Jonathan Franklin. With Hundley, he has his skills as a passer but it seems as if he can really be dangerous when he creates plays with his running ability.
Johnny Curren: The USC defensive line versus the UCLA offensive line. As USC head coach Ed Orgeron noted in his weekly conference call, quarterback Brett Hundley is the heart that makes the UCLA offense tick. As such, one of the major keys to a Trojans victory will be the ability of the USC defensive line to get after the talented Bruins passer. And with UCLA likely to start three freshmen this weekend on an offensive line that gave up a staggering nine sacks to Arizona State, Leonard Williams and Co. have to be licking their chops. If the USC defensive line can, indeed, take advantage of what appears to be a significant mismatch by getting after Hundley on a consistent basis, while also limiting UCLA’s ground attack, the Trojans should certainly come out on top in this one.
Greg Katz: The key matchup will be the Trojans defensive front seven’s ability to contain UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. It’s no secret that Hundley is the heart and soul of the Bruins offense. While his arm is a threat, it’s his feet that can cause greater damage by keeping the Trojans defensive off balance. The problem with Hundley in Saturday’s game is that he’ll probably move around, over, and through the pocket more in this game than any other.
What is the top moment or game from this rivalry to take place in the Coliseum?
Paskwietz: I’ll go with the 27-0 USC victory in 2001. It wasn’t a game that decided a Rose Bowl or national championship and it didn’t involve a dramatic finish. Instead, it was a shocking exclamation point on a turnaround in fortunes for the two programs. For the Trojans, it was a glimpse of what was coming in the Pete Carroll era, the first real sign of a dominant performance under the first-year coach. It was made all the better for USC fans by the fact that it took place against the Bruins, especially since UCLA had been riding high with one L.A. area newspaper columnist even claiming it had become a Bruin town. Since that column appeared, USC has won nine of the 11 meetings between the two schools.
Curren: I’ll go with Rodney Peete’s touchdown toss to Erik Affholter in 1987. With a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line, the underdog Trojans found themselves trailing the Troy Aikman-led Bruins 13-0 in the third quarter. But then, thanks to the determination and arm of Peete, USC mounted its comeback. And with the Trojans down 13-10 with just under eight minutes left, the gutsy signal caller threw a beautiful 33-yard pass into the corner of the end zone that Affholter bobbled, but eventually reeled in for a touchdown, and USC won 17-13.
Katz: No question here that it was the 1967 game when both teams played in the Coliseum, which led to a Rose Bowl berth and the national championship. The specific moment would be tailback O.J. Simpson’s legendary, weaving 64-yard touchdown run in the final quarter, which helped position the Trojans for the final victory margin. Lost in the history was that Trojans placekicker Rikki Aldridge actually converted the PAT after the Simpson run to put the Men of Troy ahead by a point and the eventual final score of 21-20.
Which player will rise up in this rivalry game?
Paskwietz: I think it’s entirely possible that this game will become the Buck Allen show. The Trojans sophomore tailback has burst onto the scene with some dazzling performances -- the most recent being the 145-yard, three-touchdown effort against Colorado -- and he appears destined to break out on the national stage in a game like this.
Curren: RB Javorius "Buck" Allen. Allen, who emerged from anonymity earlier this season, has been on a tear as of late, eclipsing the century mark on the ground in three out of the Trojans’ last four games, and I see that trend continuing this weekend. The Bruins have a solid defense, but not dominating by any means, and they allow an average of 174.5 rushing yards per game. So if the USC offensive line can open up some lanes, there’s reason to believe that Allen, who just keeps getting better and better, will break loose.
Katz: While signs point to Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler, who continues to get better and better each game, the player who could etch his name in the lore of this great rivalry is USC sophomore wide receiver Nelson Agholor. It’s not hard to envision Agholor returning a punt to the house or having a huge scoring day as a receiver. With the effectiveness of All-America wide receiver Marqise Lee still questionable, a healthy Agholor not only has the ability to score from anywhere on the field, but he has a way of doing it in dramatic fashion that can really change the tide of emotion in such a heated rivalry game.