Rivalry week is here a week early, as UCLA takes on USC Saturday night in the Rose Bowl, with not only the Victory Bell on the line, but the Pac-12 South division title. The Bruins (8-2, 5-2 P12) are in control of their own destiny in the division, needing wins over the Trojans (7-3, 6-2 P12) and Stanford (6-5, 4-4 P12) to make the trip to Levi's Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship for a rematch with Oregon.
Can the Bruins "Run Los Angeles" once again and top USC, and keep their hopes of a Pac-12 Division title, and a prominent bowl spot alive? Three keys to a Bruins victory over the Trojans:
GET AHEAD EARLY
Something UCLA has struggled with is falling behind in the opening half of games this season, outscoring opponents just 60-42 in the 1st quarter alone. We've seen several good starts with the Bruins, like the two scores in eight minutes vs. Washington earlier this month, or 17 points in the opening frame vs. Coloado. This offense is capable of putting up points if necessary.
As good as this offense can be, we know UCLA has had their fair share of struggles scoring and falling behind in games this year. I point you to the Oregon and Utah games, where the Bruins couldn't work the ball up the field, and as a result went into the locker room trailing by double-digits. If UCLA wants to control the game and beat USC Saturday, they have to set the tone and go ahead early on the scoreboard.
KEEP FEEDING PAUL PERKINS
What a pleasant surprise Sophomore RB Paul Perkins has been.
After splitting carries with Jordon James in 2013, Perkins has burst onto the scene as not only the number one back for Coach Mora and the Bruins, but one of the rising stars in the Pac-12. He leads the Bruins with 189 carries for 1169 yards and six touchdowns. He's chasing Buck Allen for the Pac-12 rushing title, trailing the USC RB by less than 20 yards going into Saturday night's contest. Perkins has the chance to be UCLA's first rushing champion since 1995.
He's quick at hitting holes the line creates for him, and can change his direction on a cut incredibly fast. His much improved vision and explosion make him the #2 offensive weapon for the Bruins this year.
KEEP HUNDLEY CLEAN
The offensive line has been a glaring problem for this UCLA offense this year, resulting in a lot of broken plays and forcing QB Brett Hundley to create a lot of plays himself. While it works out in benefit of the Bruins most of the time, Coach Mora has to be concerned of his star QB getting injured and relying on Jerry Neuheisel to lead the offense. (See the Texas game).
The Bruins have allowed 31 sacks over the past ten games, good for an average of about three sacks per game. While there has been improvement of front since Utah gashed UCLA for 10.0 sacks earlier this year.
It's simple enough: If the Bruins can keep Brett Hundley off the turf, UCLA can be efficient in moving the ball and top the Trojans in the Rose Bowl.
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UCLA 33, USC 28