Judgement Day at the Rose Bowl is nearly upon us. The Trojans want to put an end to Jim Mora’s Bruins once and for all and make the Pac-12 Championship Game
The Pac-12 is also at stake.
No.19 USC (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) and No.9 UCLA (8-2, 5-2) both have shots at the South Division. The Trojans win the division with a victory over UCLA and one loss by Arizona State.
Right now all UCLA has to do is win out, controlling their destiny.
USC lost the last two meetings against UCLA, including an emotional 35-14 defeat at the Coliseum, when the Bruins stormed the Trojans logo at midfield, posing for photos and tossing UCLA flags through the air.
It is an image that has been burned inside the upperclassmen at SC ever since.
USC leads the intra-city rivalry with 46-30-7 overall record.
Depth remains an issue despite talented 22 starters for SC. Senior cornerback Josh Shaw returns after 10-game suspension, as his leadership and experience was sorely missed in the secondary.
It’s not clear how much Shaw will play, but he could play important role for USC to pull off the upset and cripple UCLA’s conference hopes.
Just how can the Men of Troy snag the upset?
Here are three keys for a USC victory:
The Trojans must limit Brett Hundley’s damage with his legs especially when a play breaks at the line of scrimmage. Hundley (left) has 442 yards, one passing touchdown, four rushing touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero losses in his career against USC.
He’s on a rushing surge lately, rushing for 442 yards in his last five contests compared to 122 through his first five.
USC’s defensive ends and linebackers will have the task at winning the battle at the starting point against a young and developing Bruin offensive line. This unit has given up 30 sacks this year, but only six since Oct. 18. USC has sacked opposing quarterbacks at least two times in seven consecutive games.
The Trojans sacked Hundley seven times last meeting and Leonard Williams, nation’s best defensive end, will look to fluster the quarterback Saturday and force him to make mistakes.
Cody Kessler (right) is having the school’s best statistical season with the nation’s fourth-best pass efficiency, completion percentage (70.2% – best in USC history) and touchdown passes (29) with only three interceptions.
The Bruins defense has allowed 247.2 passing yards this season (94th) and their pass rush has only 13 sacks in Pac-12 games.
Kessler has thrown 16 passing plays of 30 or more and Nelson Agholor has snatched five of those big plays. The junior wideout posted back-to-back games of last 200 receiving yards for the first time in USC’s lengthy history.
Kessler has other viable targets in freshman JuJu Smith and junior George Farmer if Agholor gets doubled.
3. Win the run game.
This meeting will feature the Pac-12’s top two rushers – USC’s Javorius “Buck” Allen (left) and UCLA’s Paul Perkins. The Bruins average 215.8 yards per game and have the ability to win games with their legs.
Perkins has recorded 1,172 rushing yards, six touchdowns and 6.2 YPC.
Allen, semifinalist for Doak Walker Award, was held under 100 yards versus California, snapping six consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing.
A USC victory will do more than simply reclaiming the Victory Bell, but could also put a stamp on Steve Sarkisian’s first season as USC head coach along with a crack at Notre Dame the next week.