USC Trojans, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, November 26, 7:00 p.m.
After doing something that everybody said that they wouldn’t be able to do – beat the then-fourth ranked Oregon Ducks in the toughest place to play in the Pac-12, Autzen Stadium in Eugene – these Trojans from the University of Southern California are truly on a high right now.
Credit must be given; I’ve never seen any team that’s on probation and banned from post season bowls play in such a dominating fashion.
USC is chock full of players and play makers who are peaking, led by quarterback Matt Barkley, who threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns against Oregon and has 3,105 yards and a whopping 33 TDs in the air this year, completing 67.6% of his passes.
Barkley – who’s a junior – is a definite first round NFL pick should he come out, but he will most likely stay because of a chance to go to the Rose Bowl in 2012, with the Trojans being released from their bowl ban, and the weapons he has at wide receiver, namely two guys from Gardena (CA) Serra High School named Robert Woods and Marquise Lee; all they did against the Ducks was combine for 15 catches, 240 yards, and three touchdowns.
For the season, Woods has caught 99 passes for 1,179 yards and 13 TDs, all huge numbers to be sure, while Lee has 919 yards on 60 catches with nine TDs of his own.
To say that it will be a major challenge for UCLA’s secondary to face a receiver with over 1,000 yards and another receiver who is certain to do the same is a big understatement.
The best thing about those two for the Trojan Family? Woods is a true sophomore and Lee is a year removed from high school, who will surely be named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in a few weeks.
And for that matter, look for Barkley to finish within the top three for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, if not actually win it.
Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal have been strong at running back, with McNeal coming on like gangbusters in the last few weeks, while the defense, led by defensive end Nick Perry and his 8.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles, had two turnovers against Oregon, so they’ve been opportunistic.
All of this means that to have any chance of beating USC in the 81st meeting between these institutions that are a mere 11 miles apart, UCLA must play a perfect game in the Coliseum.
The big question is, can the Bruins do that?
Conventional wisdom says a bold faced no, but stranger things have happened in this crosstown rivalry, like in 2006 when a second ranked Trojan team lost to UCLA, 13-9, knocking them out of the BCS Championship game.
One thing is for sure – it will certainly be a monumental task, much like David when he faced Goliath or Rocky Balboa when he faced Apollo Creed.
And in David’s case, we all know what happened there.