Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host Southern Cal Trojans
Will UCLA's ground game be able to exploit the Trojan defense? Will Caleb Johnson pick up where he left off versus ASU? Who wins the turnover battle?
Welcome to the Beat $c Week edition of Pregame Guesses! Year in and year out, no matter how good or how bad the season has been up until this point, there can either be redemption with a win or humiliation with a loss when the UCLA Bruins play the Southern Cal Trojans.
This season matches up an undefeated (4-0) Southern Cal team against perhaps Chip Kelly’s best squad, checking in at 3-2. There are some intriguing match-ups in this year’s game but, first, let’s listen to some tunes.
The music choice for the LA City Championship—I’ve always liked this moniker better than the Crosstown Showdown, although good versus evil also works—is always easy. And, it is always the same every year.
Need I say more? Play these on repeat all day before the game. Go Bruins!
One of the interesting match-ups in this game is the UCLA rushing attack versus Southern Cal’s rushing defense. The Bruins have one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, averaging 227.6 yards per game on the ground, #16 in the nation. The Trojans are middle of the road in stopping the run, allowing 150 yards per game, good for #55 in the country. I expect the Bruins to try to run the ball a lot to try exploit this match-up, because UCLA’s passing offense is #87 in the nation and Southern Cal’s passing defense is #34 in passing yards allowed. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: The average between what UCLA gains on the ground per game and what Southern Cal gives up on the ground per game is 188.8. I am setting line for UCLA’s rushing yards at 188.8. Are you taking the over or the under?
UCLA’s redshirt junior linebacker Caleb Johnson has really started to come into his own this season. He had a monster game versus Arizona State, combining for ten tackles (six solo, four assisted), with 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, including the critical sack on third down on the Sun Devils’ final drive. Not only did he put up big numbers, but, to paraphrase John Wooden, he performed at his best when his best was needed. How will Johnson fare this week? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: It’s a two-part question. How many tackles (solo plus assisted) will Caleb Johnson record against the Trojans. How many sacks will he make?
As discussed in previous PGGs, turnovers have defined much of UCLA’s season. When they turn the ball over, the Bruins lose. When they take care of the rock and force some turnovers of their own, UCLA wins. Unfortunately, the stats don’t bode well for the Bruins this week. In four games, Southern Cal is tied for #2 in the nation in turnover ratio. The Trojans have 12 takeaways (6 fumbles recoveries and 6 interceptions), while only turning over the ball 6 times (4 fumbles and 2 interceptions). After turning the ball over frequently in its two of its first three games (both losses), the Bruins have been better at taking care of the ball. In the last two games, UCLA’s turnover margin has been plus four. But they are still minus three on the season, which is tied for #105 in the nation. Turnovers will be critical in this game. UCLA is faring better, but will they continue this trend against one of the best in the country? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Who will win the turnover battle? More precisely, how many times with Southern Cal turn the ball over and how many times will UCLA give it away (now)?
BONUS GUESS: Who wins the game and what will be the final score?
There’s not much more to say this week except GO BRUINS! BEAT—or add another appropriate four-letter verb of your choice—$C!!