Friday, November 25, 2011
5 things to watch: UCLA-USC
By Pedro Moura
1. Uniforms? It's been the talk of the town this week, what kind of jerseys the two schools are going to wear for the annual crosstown rivalry game. For its part, USC has said it will be wearing its normal home cardinal-and-gold uniforms, but UCLA is hinting at an all-white alternate combination, which would certainly attract some eyes and get some attention. It's worth noting that teams wearing non-normal jerseys -- Colorado and Notre Dame -- have not fared well against the Trojans this season, and it's also worth noting that USC coach Lane Kiffin wasn't terribly pleased with UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel when he heard the news about the Bruins' uniforms. The schools have both worn their home uniforms each of the last three seasons after Neuheisel and Pete Carroll petitioned the NCAA to allow it.
2. Barkley4Heisman? With all the talk about USC quarterback Matt Barkley for the Heisman Trophy this week after USC's upset win over Oregon, one thing still remains before the all-out hype machine begins: The Trojans need to beat the Bruins. If they don't -- or even if they just sneak by -- Barkley's candidacy will be ruined. He needs to have a big game and USC needs to win in excessive fashion, otherwise voters are really going to forget about him by the time most vote in two weeks. Barkley has often talked about ending his Trojans' career with a bang, and beating UCLA handily would certainly qualify.
3. The pistol. Kiffin said it this week when asked about Rich Rodriguez' hiring over at Arizona: The Pac-12 is becoming the league of unusual offensive schemes. UCLA is no different, and the Trojans haven't necessarily had success defending the pistol in the past. (Remember the 2010 season opener against Hawaii?) The Bruins appear to have gotten it down really well in recent weeks, and quarterback Kevin Prince is the biggest threat to run USC has faced in a quarterback all season. The Trojans did face a team with multiple talented tailbacks a week ago in Oregon's LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, so UCLA's tandem of Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman won't be an unheard-of threat.
4. Milestones. A number of USC players are on the cusp of some season- and career-long milestones, including receiver Marqise Lee and running back Curtis McNeal. Lee, a freshman, is just 81 receiving yards away from 1,000 on the season. McNeal, a junior, is just 119 rushing yards away from 1,000 on the season. And sophomore receiver Robert Woods needs only one catch to reach 100 on the year and four catches to break Keyshawn Johnson's single-season record. For what it's worth, Kiffin said that the Trojans will not be specifically trying to get those guys the ball early, but, if it's a blowout, they'll make sure as much as they can that the three of them get as many chances as possible to break the individual records.
5. Keeping it up defensively. As freshman linebacker Dion Bailey said this week, USC's defensive surge this season from disappointing to respectable would all be for naught if the Trojans relented against UCLA this week and gave up 30-plus points to the Bruins. A 9-3 record would essentially negate the progress Monte Kiffin's unit has made all season, and the Bruins do have the talent to make that possible. The goal, then, is to create multiple turnovers, something USC has not done with regularity this season. When the Trojans do that, though, they win. The problem is this: Prince hasn't thrown a pick in four of his last five starts.