What follows is the continuation of our elongated 2012 UCLA football preview. Check out our previews on Rice, Nebraska, Houston, Oregon State, Colorado, California, Utah, Arizona State, Arizona and Washington State.
This entire match-up is a plot. The rivalry may not mean much to South Cal fans these days since they’re off chasing — let’s face it — bigger fish, but it’s still a huge-ass deal to UCLA fans.
Because South Cal, as much as we hate those bastards, is the standard in the Pac-12. It hurts to type these words, because I hate USC football (and basketball, and really, their entire culture) more than I hate anything. But it’s the truth. The most important measuring stick we have is our game against South Cal once a year, to determine just how competitive we are, talent-wise and preparation-wise.
Last season, the lowest point of the season was not the loss to Arizona, but a 50-0 shellacking we received at the hands of our most hated rivals. Since then, UCLA fans have been suffocated by constant reminders of this tragic event because, let’s face it, most South Cal students go to USC because 1) they couldn’t get into UCLA, and/or 2) because they like watching football and/or other sports more than they like getting an education. Cognitive dissonance — in the form of “UCLA doesn’t have my major” or “there’s better networking at USC” — be damned.
But we’ve got nothing to say back, in a football sense, when they remind us of that painful November night. They man-handled us, and UCLA fans want nothing more than to beat this damn team.
(I do, too, but I don’t ascribe to the idea that I’d sacrifice 11 other wins to have one win against $C.)
I’m going to make a side note too, and tell you that I’m going to attack this without bias and with incredible, excruciating objectivity. Basically, it’ll go against what I normally would do, which is just convince myself that USC isn’t supposed to be that good.
USC Offense vs. UCLA Defense
This offense — South Cal’s many-headed monster — looks, on paper, unstoppable. For a short amount of time in 2011, they were unstoppable. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee combine to create what is likely the most lethal combination of receivers in the entire nation. Both combined for damn near 2500 receiving yards, 26 touchdowns, and 184 receptions. They’re friggin’ explosive and they’ll be a pain in the ass to deal with. The UCLA secondary, as we well know, likely won’t keep up here at all.
Matt Barkley is pretty good, too. Damn good, even, even if we think he’s got the “pretty boy” look to him that is a predictor of future cross-dressing. The dude is easily the best QB in the nation, and he’s supposed to be the top pick in the 2013 NFL draft for a reason. Thirty-nine touchdown passes, 3530 yards, and a completion percentage of 70 percent is absolutely no joke, although sure, he does play in the Pac-12 where 3/4 of the teams don’t like to tackle, ourselves included.
The position with the most question marks was running back. Curtis McNeal’s good — not the best in the conference, we think, but good — but after that, USC had absolutely nothing to relieve him.
And then the bastards got Silas Redd to transfer out of Penn State. And it just so happens that Silas Redd ran for more yards than incumbent Trogan Curtis McNeal (1241 yards to McNeal’s 1005 yards), so now USC has one of the more formidable running attacks in college football to compliment their explosive passing attack. F*** me, man.
But as I’ve written before on FanSided.com, USC isn’t worth all that top-ranked hype.
This offensive unit might be a tad over-hyped. The team still lacks in depth at quite a few positions, and that namely applies to the wide receiver position. Woods and Lee are great, but Woods has suffered setbacks with injuries, and after that, USC will have to rely primarily on unproven, albeit talented, young receivers such as George Farmer (who, mind you, has had a lingering hamstring problem).
In fact, to think they’ll eclipse Oregon’s offense is a little premature, and it wasn’t as if South Cal was consistent last year. After a triple-overtime loss to Stanford, South Cal went on a tear, but prior to that, the team had its issues.
For the UCLA defense to stop South Cal from hanging over 30, that’s what’ll have to happen: $C will have to have pervasive issues all season and the UCLA defense will have to grind and take advantage of these opportunities.
It’s not impossible for the UCLA defense to deter this South Cal offense from scoring all over the place, but if we’re talking about likelihoods, it isn’t all that likely. The best chance UCLA will have to slow the offense down is for that beefy 3-4 front does incredibly well (as we’d expect them to, since it
is our biggest strength it seems) and Lou Spanos dials up some aggressive-ass plays to put pressure on that also-very-good offensive line that South Cal will field.
USC Defense vs. UCLA Offense
If UCLA wants to beat $C in 2012, it’d almost certainly have to go through a massive shoot-out.
It won’t exactly be out of the question, either. USC’s biggest problem is depth on the defensive line, and it just so happens that UCLA has an incredible amount of weapons in the backfield, namely with Johnathan Franklin, Steven Manfro, Malcolm Jones and a host of over running backs that UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone can utilize in the short game.
That secondary for South Cal is dangerous, though, with T.J. McDonald (brother of Bruin defensive back Tevin McDonald) leading the way. UCLA has a good amount of weapons at wide-out (with Jerry Jones finally being healthy, Devin Lucien looking like an animal, along with the arrival of freshman Jordan Payton. Plus, Ricky Marvray is apparently a sleeper and Shaq Evans should be very solid, too. Oh, and we’re also forgetting about the top tight-end in the nation in Joseph Fauria, who should be targeted like hell, not just this game, but all season.
Someone’s got to get them the ball, though, and whoever that is will drastically change the dynamic of the offense. If Brett Hundley is well-polished by the team the second half of the season rolls around, having as much wide-out depth as we do will make us a legit threat through the air. At the same time, Hundley can run much better than Kevin Prince could and a million times better than Brehaut can. If Brehaut is named the starter, folks in Westwood will have their heads explode.
UCLA needs to put up a lot of points to win, though, and although we have the talent, it remains to be seen whether the squad can immediately live up to potential.
Prediction: South Cal 34, UCLA 24
If the game ends up turning out to be a ten-point loss to South Cal in which we keep up with them step for step, no one should be mad, even if we do hate this team and that school filled with arrogant a-holes.
Because a loss like that, and seven or eight wins prior to this game, will send some serious messages, not to South Cal fans, but to other Pac-12 teams, that the supposed sleeping giant of college football has woken the hell up.
Like I said, measuring stick …