- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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LOS ANGELES -- A berth in the Pac-12 championship game might not be at stake, but there is still plenty on the line in terms of bragging rights and pride when crosstown rivals No. 23 USC (9-3 overall, 6-2 Pac-12) and No. 22 UCLA (8-3 overall, 5-3 Pac-12) meet on Saturday in the Coliseum. With a record of 6-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, the Trojans have built up a huge amount of momentum, but they face a significant challenge in a talent-laden Bruins squad. Featuring a potent offense headlined by quarterback Brett Hundley, Jim Mora’s UCLA team started out the 2013 campaign with five straight wins. As the season has progressed, however, the Bruins stumbled against the conference heavyweights, losing games to Stanford, Oregon, and most recently, Arizona State. Still, the Bruins are a formidable group and they’ll play with a ton of emotion this weekend as they attempt to come away a second-consecutive win over the Trojans.
Scoring: 36.6 points per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 26 overall)
Rushing: 194.4 yards per game (No. 5 Pac-12, No. 37 overall)
Passing: 255.5 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 38 overall)
Total: 452.9 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 37 overall)
Quarterback: No. 17 Brett Hundley (6-foot-3, 222 pounds, So.)
A prolific dual-threat passer, Hundley orchestrates Noel Mazzone’s spread offense to near perfection, ranking No. 2 in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency, while throwing for an average of 239.7 yards per game. Just as dangerous with his feet, he’s amassed 507 yards on the ground.
The UCLA running back corps has been hit hard by injuries, but the recent emergence of Jack -- who also stars at linebacker -- has been a revelation. A physical ball-carrier with explosive playmaking ability, he averages 7.6 yards per carry. Perkins leads the team with 536 rushing yards.
Hundley spreads the ball around to a whole host of receivers, with Evans standing out as his most dependable and dynamic option. He and Fuller -- who is expected to return after missing last week’s contest due to injury -- have combined for 82 grabs.
Offensive Line: LT No. 56 Xavier Su’a-Filo (6-3, 305, Jr.), LG No. 52 Scott Quessenberry (6-3, 288, Fr.), C No. 54 Jake Brendel (6-4, 285, So.) RG No. 51 Alex Redmond (6-5, 305, Fr.), RT No. 74 Caleb Benenoch (6-5, 320, Fr.)
While the UCLA offensive line has shown improvement from last season, they’ve still had more than their share of struggles in pass protection, allowing 32 sacks on the year, including nine to ASU. They were also dealt a blow when starting left tackle Simon Goines suffered a broken leg against the Sun Devils, meaning three freshmen are likely to start versus USC’s vaunted defensive front.
Scoring: 25 points per game (No. 6 Pac-12, No. 50 overall)
Rushing: 174.5 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 72 overall)
Passing: 225.4 yards per game (No. 5 Pac-12, No. 55 overall)
Total: 399.9 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 63 overall)
The UCLA defense has performed at a fairly middle-of-the-road level, particularly against the run. Marsh leads the interior group with 51 stops, including 8.5 tackles for loss. Freshman Eddie Vanderdoes will also factor into the rotation at defensive end.
Fast and aggressive, the linebackers serve as the backbone of the defense. Barr, who has compiled a team-best 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks, is one of the nation’s most feared pass-rushers. Jack is expected to spend plenty of time at outside linebacker after lining up exclusively at running back against ASU.
Despite having had some minor dips in production, the UCLA secondary has actually held its own -- somewhat of a surprise considering the Bruins had to replace all four starters from a year ago heading into this season. Jefferson and Goforth have been steady as the starting safety duo, with Jefferson ranking No. 2 on the team with 77 tackles.
Adams is the team’s most reliable cover man, and he leads the Bruins with four interceptions. Moreau went to the sideline with a hamstring injury against ASU, and his status is up in the air. If he can’t go, Goforth or Jefferson could slide over, and Priest Willis -- who was picked on by Arizona State -- might also take snaps here.
Punter: No. 42 Sean Covington (6-1, 211, Fr.)
Covington averages 41.3 yards per punt.
Kicker: No. 15 Ka’imi Fairbairn (5-11, 185, So.)
Fairbairn has hit 14 of 20 field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards, and he was 2-of-4 against the Sun Devils. He and Covington have both handled kickoff duties.
Kick/Punt returner: No. 24 Ishmael Adams (5-8, 190, So.), No. 7 Devin Fuller (5-11, 195, So.)
Earning Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his efforts this past weekend, Adams averaged 37 yards on five kick returns against ASU, while also taking a punt back 49 yards.
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