USC: Sheldon Price


November, 16, 2012
The USC Trojans (No. 18 BCS, No. 21 AP) and UCLA Bruins (No. 17 BCS, No. 17 AP) haven't matched up in a game that meant this much in a long time.

The winner of Saturday's 12 p.m. PT game at the Rose Bowl will secure the Pac-12 South title and earn a trip to the conference championship to compete for a bid to another game at the Rose Bowl.

Here are 10 things to watch in the winner-take-all matchup:

1. Mora vs. Kiffin. Long-term, the most important takeaway from this game will be who takes the upper hand between the two coaches who seem destined for a nice rivalry. Jim Mora and Lane Kiffin have the perfect mix of similarities and differences to make things interesting -- coaching bloodlines, NFL failures and recruiting successes, plus their opposite personalities. Mora is engaging and exciting as a speaker; Kiffin is, at his best, mildly entertaining. But who's a better coach? Perhaps we'll find out on Saturday.

2. More Marqise Lee. Lee hasn't lost any of his luster over the past couple of weeks, as he continues to be probably the second-hottest player in the country, behind only Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. The whole defense thing from last week didn't work out, and Lee said he won't be playing there this week, but even so, he should be able to exploit a weak UCLA secondary. Lee is just 14 catches, 86 yards and four touchdowns away from breaking the Pac-12 single-season marks in all three categories.

3. Strength vs. weakness. If this isn't a recipe for abject disaster, what is? UCLA's biggest weakness is its secondary, and specifically, at corner. USC's biggest strength is its receivers, the top pass-catching duo in the nation. If the Bruins single-cover Lee with Sheldon Price or Aaron Hester at any point, they'll essentially be inviting the Trojans to score a touchdown. If they double- or triple-cover him, they'll be inviting Kiffin to re-explore throwing the ball to Robert Woods, which has never worked out too poorly for USC.

4. Hundley and Franklin. USC has Lee and Matt Barkley. UCLA has Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin, and the Bruins' duo isn't far off in terms of overall excitement and ability to explode for dynamic plays. It'll be particularly interesting to see how the Trojans try to stop Franklin, who has reinvented himself this season as an outside runner after running mostly between the tackles in the old Bruins scheme. As for Hundley, he's a dual-threat quarterback who has been more effective as a passer than a runner, and he makes his living passing short to backs and tight ends. In fact, only one of the Bruins' top four receivers is an actual wide receiver, and only four of Hundley's 24 touchdown passes have gone to an actual receiver, not counting newly healthy running back/receiver Damien Thigpen.

5. The offensive lines. No, they won't be battling directly against one another, but the Trojans' and Bruins' lines will collectively determine a lot of what happens at the Rose Bowl. UCLA's offensive line is particularly young and hasn't kept Hundley off the ground, but the Trojans' linemen probably would've been on the hook for more sacks if Kiffin didn't call so many three-step drops because of them. Who will step up to the occasion? If there's an indicator, maybe it's that USC starts a fifth-year senior at center in Khaled Holmes, and UCLA starts a redshirt freshman, Jake Brendel.

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First, first look: UCLA

August, 3, 2011
As the weeks counted down until USC football fall camp, we offered up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began back in May with Minnesota, Utah, Syracuse and Arizona State, continued the next three weeks with Arizona, Cal and Notre Dame and added Stanford, Colorado, Washington and Oregon recently. We now present UCLA, who the Trojans will play at home in their season finale on Nov. 26:

That's it for this week. Our final first look, at UCLA, comes next Wednesday, the day before 2011 fall camp kicks off for the Trojans.

History: There's a common belief that USC has faced UCLA more than any other school in the conference or country, but that's actually not true -- the Trojans have faced Cal, Stanford and Washington more than they've matched up against the Bruins.

What is true, though, is that the Bruins have had more success against the Trojans than any other Pac-12 school, historically. In 80 all-time matchups, UCLA has a .350 winning percentage, good enough for best in the conference against USC.

Of late, the Bruins have struggled. They've won just one of the last dozen games between the schools, a stretch in which they've been outscored 384-176. Last year's game at the Rose Bowl, a 28-14 final, wasn't all that lopsided, but, until UCLA scored with less than a minute to go in the game, it was going to be the fourth straight time the Bruins failed to put up more than one score against the Trojans.

USC hasn't lost at the Coliseum to UCLA since 1997.

Offense: The top player for the Bruins on this side of the ball is running back Johnathan Franklin, a local kid from L.A. Dorsey who ran for over 1100 yards in 2010. He was UCLA's representative at Pac-12 media day last week and is likely going to be the most recognizable Bruin throughout the season.

Surrounding him are receivers Nelson Rosario, Randall Carroll, Taylor Embree and Ricky Marvray, fullback Anthony Barr and tight end Cory Harkey and Joseph Fauria -- plus a potential-filled offensive line that includes senior center Kai Maiava and sixth-year senior Sean Sheller, who could play either guard or tackle. Junior Jeff Baca is expected to miss the early part of the season while recovering from a broken ankle he suffered in spring ball.

Quarterback is still a question mark, with Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut set to compete against each other in fall camp for the spot. Both players are capable starters, but Prince is known to be the more dedicated player -- which means he's probably the favorite to win the job. Brehaut played organized baseball this summer. It's also worth noting that Prince is what's commonly known as injury-prone. By the time Thanksgiving weekend comes around, there's a significant chance he could be out, with Brehaut or even freshman Brett Hundley replacing him.

Former San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be in his first season working with the Bruin offense.

Defense: Safety Tony Dye is talented and has been productive in the past, as has Sean Westgate, a former special-teams standout who made the successful transition to outside linebacker last season. Defensive end Datone Jones is the top lineman, with sophomore Cassius Marsh a nice prospect at tackle.

Junior cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price each had some success starting in 2010. Middle linebacker Patrick Larimore was impressive in the first half of last season before he got hurt, but he's expected to make a full recovery this year and return to lining up the defensive unit. The other projected starting linebacker, Glenn Love, is a converted safety. It'll be interesting to see how sophomore Dietrich Riley performs at safety across from Dye. He made a Signing Day decision to pick UCLA over USC and has been vocal in supporting his decision since.

Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey spent last season in the United Football League after a combined three years at Cincinnati and South Florida. He's known for an aggressive, turnover-inducing style.

Special teams/special circumstances: 19-year-old Kip Smith, a Colorado native who was rated the No. 1 kicker in the 2010 class by some recruiting services, takes over for the departed Kai Forbath, who recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys.

Redshirt junior Jeff Locke missed spring practice while recovering from hip surgery but is again expected to challenge for the Ray Guy award in 2011, as he has in each of the past two seasons. At returner, Embree was sixth in the conference in punt-return average and Colorado transfer Josh Smith was eighth in kick-return average.

Both players are expected to resume their roles.

That concludes our 12-part series. USC fall camp coverage begins tomorrow.



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