Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins at Southern Cal Trojans
This is going to be the defining week in Chip Kelly’s fourth season. The UCLA Bruin football team (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) is coming off a 44-20 win over Colorado, perhaps the second worst team in the Pac-12 Conference.
The good news is that the Bruins are now bowl eligible, a first with Coach Kelly at the helm. The bad news is that UCLA has had trouble with Southern Cal after winning three straight under Jim L. Mora. The Bruins are 1-5 in their last six meetings with the Trojans, 1-2 under Kelly, with UCLA’s last win at the Coliseum coming eight years ago in 2013. With a significant portion of the UCLA fan base believing that Coach Kelly is still underachieving in this “show me” season, a win against Southern Cal could silence those critics. A loss would turn up the volume.
Southern Cal (4-5, 3-4 Pac-12) comes into the game after an unscheduled bye, as their contest versus UC Berkeley last week was rescheduled to December due to COVID-19 within the Golden Bears’ program. Although the Trojans are vulnerable under interim coach Donte Williams, they have had unexpected time off to get healthy and prepare for the Bruins.
The music selection this week is always a no-brainer. Here is the Solid Gold Sound of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band!
Bruins never tire of those songs. Ger fired up! Listen to that on repeat at full volume all morning long on Saturday!
On to the guesses . . .
UCLA has never beaten Southern Cal with Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center. The Bruins lost in DTR’s sophomore and junior seasons and, although UCLA beat the Trojans when Thompson-Robinson was a freshman, it was with Wilton Speight at quarterback. Joshua Kelley was the engine in that one, rushing for 289 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
DTR, however, has matured this season. Although he still has some issues throwing the ball, his pocket presence has improved by leaps and bounds, as has his scrambling ability. Statistically, DTR had really good games versus the Trojans in those two losses, as follows:
2019: 24 for 44, 367 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int; 16 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD
2020: 30 for 36, 364 yards, 4 TD, 2 Int, 10 carries, 50 yards, no TD
Even with the picks, those are really good stat lines in a rivalry game. Thus, although it is not the only factor, I believe UCLA will need Dorian Thompson-Robinson to have another really good game if the Bruins hope to prevail against Southern Cal in the Coliseum. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Predict DTR’s stat line (passing attempts, completions, passing yards, passing TDs, Ints, rushes, rushing yards, and rushing TDs)
Another key to the game will be, as usual, the ability of the UCLA defense to defend the pass. Last year, the difference was Southern Cal quarterback Kedon Slovis, who threw for five touchdowns and 344 yards against the Bruin D.
But Slovis is out for the season and his replacement Jaxson Dart has been inconsistent this season. Most recently, Dart had underwhelming games in a loss versus Arizona State and a win against Arizona, but Dart had a great game earlier this season when the Trojans faced Washington State. Dart threw for 390 yards versus the Cougars.
Also, Southern Cal will be missing receiver Drake London and they will certainly miss his production. Will Southern Cal be able to exploit the Bruin passing defense without Slovis and London? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many passing yards and passing touchdowns will the Bruins give up to the Trojans’ passing attack?
The final key to the game, in my opinion, will be turnovers. Last year, the Bruins lost the turnover battle to Southern Cal with UCLA giving the ball away three times, and Southern Cal turning it over to the Bruins twice. In 2019, the teams were even on turnovers, with each squad giving it away twice.
This year, UCLA is tied for #22 in the nation with a plus six turnover margin. The Bruins have 17 takeaways to only 11 giveaways. Southern Cal is considerably worse, #85 in the nation. The Trojans are minus one in turnover margin, with 15 takeaways to 16 giveaways.
If UCLA can win the turnover battle tomorrow, the Bruins should be able to come away with a victory. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict the number of turnovers for each team.
BONUS GUESS: The Bruins are 3.5 point favorites. Not sure if I agree with that, but we are just picking straight up. Who wins?
Another PGG is in the books. Guess and comment below.
BEAT SC! BEAT SC! BEAT SC (or insert your own verb of choice)!