The most that USC and UCLA could be playing for is bragging rights against each other, as the Trojans are eligible for post season play, and the Bruins may not be good enough to make it. Last year Robert Woods (13) helped USC defeat UCLA 28-14. Photo by Jeff Lewis
UCLA begins the season in Houston, while USC opens against Minnesota. Both games are Saturday at 12:30.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
USC and UCLA have different objectives this season, neither of which may include a post-season game.
UCLA, unlike USC, is eligible to play in the PAC-12 championship game and a bowl game, but from the looks of it, they might be sitting at home like USC when other teams are celebrating their season in late December and early January.
UCLA appears to have two quarterbacks, which really means that they do not have a quarterback to get behind.
Junior Kevin Prince has been named the starter for a third consecutive season, but Richard Brehaut will play, according to UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.
If UCLA cannot pass the ball like last season it will make it tough on UCLA’s running game, which was very good last year behind Johnathan Franklin’s 1,127 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball UCLA looks deep in their front seven, and getting defensive end Datone Jones (Compton HS) back from a broken foot that cost him all of last year, will help them a lot.
UCLA is going to need a much better effort out of their front seven, which allowed 205 rushing yards per game, which was 108th in the nation.
Last season UCLA’s pass defense was decent, but with safety Rahim Moore (Dorsey HS) leaving for the NFL, they might have problems back there as well.
Head coach Rick Neuheisel is a smooth talker and is beloved at UCLA, but at some point enough is going to be enough. This team has to win now or find a new coach. But Neuheisel may not have the talent to save his job.
USC is in a different boat. They are really playing for next year, when they will be able to play in the post season and make a run at the national title.
It all depends on quarterback Matt Barkley. If he has a big year and is projected to be selected in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft, then he could be gone. But if he comes back, he will have a ton of weapons at his disposal because USC is very young on the offensive side of the ball.
USC has only one senior in the offensive starting unit, and only one senior on their second team, so most of the players that they are counting on will be returning.
Looking at their wide receivers, three of the top four on the depth chart are Robert Woods, a sophomore, and freshmen Marqise Lee and Kyle Prater. Senior Bandon Carswell is listed on the second team.
If Barkley comes back, and his offensive has one more year of experience, USC could have an extremely explosive offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, they are not waiting until next season to fix their problems, they are trying to fix them right now.
Last year USC had one of their worst defenses in years. They were ranked 49th against the run and a miserable 109th against the pass.
This year’s defense has a number of seniors and juniors in their front seven, and a pair of juniors at safety. But they do not have much experience at cornerback, where sophomores Torin Harris and Nickell Robey are going to have to come through big time to improve their passing defense.
USC should not have a problem with Minnesota in the home opener, and their schedule does not look impossible. They could make a run at the PAC 12 championship game… if they were not on probation.
Check out the Sentinel Sports Section on Facebook and Twitter.
Sentinel Sports Section Facebook page:
Sentinel Sports Twitter page: