What will be the key matchup for USC offense vs UCLA defense?
Garry Paskwietz: I think it will be the USC receivers against the Bruins' secondary. Right now the Bruins rank No. 103 in the nation against the pass and that’s not where you want to be against Marqise Lee and company. This is a critically important game for Matt Barkley and it would be a great time for him to rise up and help deliver a win under these circumstances. There’s also been a lot of talk about the absence of Robert Woods from the SC passing attack recently, so don’t be surprised if he gets plenty of touches as well.
Greg Katz: The key match-up will be how the vaunted Trojans wide receiver corps produces against a very suspect UCLA secondary. In last season’s 50-0 trouncing of the Bruins, Matt Barkley tossed a school record-tying six touchdowns and threw for 423 yards. Unless the Bruins secondary has made unbelievable strides, the Trojans passing game is certainly capable of schooling the Bruins again.
Johnny Curren: The USC offensive line versus the UCLA pass rush. The Bruins rank No. 4 in the nation with 3.7 sacks per game, but they also rank No. 103 in terms of passing yardage allowed per game (266.4). What I take away from that is this: If USC can give Matt Barkley the time, he can potentially light up a suspect Bruins’ secondary. But it won’t be easy, Anthony Barr has developed into one of the conference’s top pass rushers, and guys like Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh are certainly formidable in their own right. The USC offensive tackles, in particular, have a tall order on their hands.
What will be the key matchup for USC defense vs UCLA offense?
GP: I’ll go with an individual match-up of T.J. McDonald against Brett Hundley. McDonald will be huge in this game in two particular areas; 1) spotting Hundley on those occasions when the young Bruins signal-caller tries to take off and run, and 2) providing pass coverage over the middle as the enforcer of the USC secondary. McDonald will also need to play a big role in slowing the running game of Johnathan Franklin.
GK: Your first thought is the player matchups, which are intriguing with UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and talented running back Johnathan Franklin challenging the Trojans defense with the feared spread attack. However, the most intriguing matchup is that of UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and Trojans defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Mazzone was the OC last season at Arizona State, and his Sun Devils spread offense torched the Trojans for 43 points in route to a 43-22 ASU victory. Mazzone obviously understands how to attack a Monte Kiffin defense, and we'll see how Kiffin counters Mazzone's understanding.
JC: The USC defensive line versus the UCLA offensive line: The Trojans’ defensive line got back in their groove last weekend against Arizona State and it made a world of difference, and they’re going to play a crucial role this time around too. They need to get off their blocks, apply pressure to Brett Hundley throughout the day while also containing a potent ground game led by Johnathan Franklin. Can they do it? You’d have to think that they have a good shot -- UCLA’s starting offensive line features three freshmen and ranks No. 107 in the nation in sacks allowed per game (3.1).
What was your most memorable USC vs UCLA game?
GP: 2001 is the most memorable because of what it represented. It was the first season of the Pete Carroll era, and up until that point there weren’t a whole lot of signs that the Trojans were about to turn the corner and go on one of the greatest runs in college football history. The 27-0 shutout of the Bruins was the first hint that maybe something special was brewing with Carroll in control of the USC program.
GK: Hands down, the 1967 game in the Coliseum with the No. 4 Trojans coming out on top over the No. 1 Bruins 21-20. You know the legendary names of Trojans tailback O.J. Simpson and UCLA quarterback Gary Beban, and despite an heroic game by Beban, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Simpson’s dramatic 64-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run with 10:48 remaining propelled the Trojans to the Rose Bowl and eventually, the national championship.
JC: 1990. Was there ever a more exciting game in the history of the series, at least in terms of offensive entertainment? The game looked all but done when the Bruins scored with just over a minute left to take a four-point lead, but then Todd Marinovich marched the Trojans down one last time, hitting Johnnie Morton in the corner of the end zone to give USC the 45-42 victory.
In this series there can often be an unsung player who rises up. If you had to pick one USC player who could surprise in this game, who would it be?
GP: Wes Horton. The veteran defensive end was slowed early in the season with injury and has slowly worked his way back into top form. He looked great last week against ASU and he could play a big role helping to control the Bruins' run game and to put pressure on Hundley.
GK: I don’t know at this point if he will be a surprise, but my pick to this question will be Trojans true freshman wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The Bruins and their fans will be understandably focused on Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, but Agholor is a home run hitter, and I won’t be shocked if he does some major damage to the UCLA secondary.
JC: Drew McAllister: The veteran senior has been at USC for what seems like forever, battling back from injuries and putting in the work each day, maintaining a positive attitude throughout it all. On top of that, he always seems to perform solidly when put into game action, including this season. It would be great to see him come up with a clutch play in this one. A dramatic pick to seal a Trojans victory perhaps?