Bruin Keys To The Game: USC

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For Rick Neuheisel and his UCLA Bruins to shock the college football world and beat tenth ranked (in the AP poll) USC in the Coliseum on Saturday night, here’s what they need to do:

1.  KEEP THE TROJANS’ OFFENSE OFF THE FIELD

Kevin Prince, Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman, and the Bruins’ offensive line absolutely must be effective in the running game; It’s essential that Franklin and Coleman have good nights, and REALLY essential that Kai Maiava and the rest of his line mates have a good game against SC’s defensive line, led by Nick Perry and his 8.5 sacks.

In short, UCLA needs to keep in mind that the vaunted USC offense can’t score when they’re not on the field – the Bruins must get first downs and win the time of possession.

And speaking of SC’s offense, the Bruins also must…

2.  PRESSURE MATT BARKLEY!

This is a very crucial key to the Bruins on Saturday, as defensive end Datone Jones, linebackers Patrick Larimore and Sean Westgate, and the rest of UCLA’s front seven MUST get in the Trojan backfield and cause much havoc, something that they didn’t do last year.

The USC quarterback, who’s extremely hot right now, cannot have any time to throw and must be hurried and pressured, if not running for his life.

And a few sacks – perhaps three or four – will help UCLA’s cause immensely.

If Barkley has little or no time to throw, their standout wide receivers, Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, won’t be able to hurt the Bruin secondary because the ball won’t get to them.

In short, the outcome of the UCLA – USC game may well depend on the effectiveness of UCLA’s front seven in this area, as will this key…

3.  CUT THE PENALTIES AND TURNOVERS!

The Bruins were able to get away with committing nine penalties for 102 yards against Colorado, which was, to be honest, a team whose personnel didn’t match UCLA’s. However…

It’s a guarantee that Neuheisel’s team will not get away with committing penalties, or turnovers, against a team as good as USC.

In other words, UCLA needs to play error-free football, or something close to it, to have a chance, which is also something they have not done in the last couple of games with the Trojans as an interception returned for a touchdown helped to do in the Bruins in 2009, and a fumble return for a score contributed to their loss to ‘SC last year.

They need to take it one down at a time – no mistakes.

Play a perfect or near-perfect game.

The question is, can UCLA do that?

The last big key to the Bruins’ potential success against the Trojans this Saturday is…

4.  COME UP WITH SOME DIFFERENT THINGS ON OFFENSE TO PUT USC OFF GUARD AND SURPRISE THEM.

It’s essential for UCLA’s offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson, to do this because as sure as I’m writing this, the Trojans will have looked at the Bruins’ game films, studied the pistol offense, and figured out a game plan to slow it down if not contain it.

While I’m not suggesting dumping the pistol completely, as that has produced some success in recent games, namely against Colorado, UCLA has to come up with some wrinkles that will surprise the USC defense if they want to be effective; maybe some power-I formations, or some plays loading up three or four receivers on one side, or a flea-flicker, or a quick no-huddle offense to try and tire ‘SC out, something.

Doing that, where the Trojans won’t know what hit them, will greatly enhance the Bruins’ chances of winning.

Before I go, a couple of tidbits:

According to the Los Angeles Times, UCLA will be wearing all-white uniforms, complete with a white helmet, for the game against USC on Saturday night. Bruin Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said that “…we have been working with the Adidas design team for several months…”on the new unis.

It will be interesting to see what the new threads will look like.

AND AS THIS IS THE USC GAME, ITS MY OBLIGATION TO PREDICT HOW THINGS WILL UNFOLD AS WELL WHAT THE FINAL SCORE WILL BE, SO HERE WE GO…

Although UCLA is a 14 point underdog in this crosstown rivalry game, I think the Bruins will come to the Coliseum and, as the saying goes, “Bring It” against USC.

The defense will be inspired and playing their hearts out, and will have some success in stopping Barkley and his Trojan mates, while Franklin and Coleman, especially Coleman, will be running like wild maniacs and chopping up crucial yards.

I’m not naive, this game will be very tough and  the Trojans will have some big plays and provide some crowd-pleasing highlights, but in my view, UCLA will pull off the shocking upset….

UCLA 34, USC 31.

That’s my humble opinion.

Now it’s up to the Bruins to make an honest person out of me.