Commentary

Battle for city, division

Crosstown rival UCLA hosts USC with a trip to Pac-12 title game in the balance

Updated: November 13, 2012, 10:04 PM ET
By Johnny Curren | WeAreSC.com

A berth in the Pac-12 championship game as the South Division representative is on the line as No. 18 USC (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) takes on crosstown rival No. 17 UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Trojans bounced back from two straight losses to defeat Arizona State, 38-17, last weekend, while a Bruins team that has shown tremendous improvement under first-year coach Jim Mora won at Washington State, 44-36, the squad's fourth consecutive victory.

Offense
Scoring: 37.7 points per game (No. 3 Pac-12, No. 22 overall)

Rushing: 210.9 yards per game (No. 3 Pac-12, No. 23 overall)

Passing: 285.9 yards per game (No. 5 Pac-12, No. 31 overall)

Total: 496.8 yards per game (No. 3 Pac-12, No. 13 overall)

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireFreshman quarterback Brett Hundley has expertly guided the Bruins to an 8-2 record.
Quarterback: No. 17 Brett Hundley (6-foot-3, 223, Fr.)
One of the primary reasons for UCLA's rejuvenation has been Hundley, who has directed offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's fast-paced spread attack to near perfection, completing 69 percent of his passes for 2,739 yards while amassing 272 more yards on the ground.

Running Back: No. 23 Johnathan Franklin (5-11, 195, Sr.), No. 6 Jordon James (5-8, 193, So.), No. 25 Damien Thigpen (5-8, 178, Jr.), No. 41 David Allen (6-2, 225, Sr.)
UCLA's all-time rushing leader, Franklin has had a stellar senior campaign,establishing himself as one of the nation's most dangerous ball-carriers. He's run for 127 yards per game -- the No. 6 mark in the FBS.

Wide Receiver: No. 9 Jerry Johnson (6-3, 211, Sr.), No. 1 Shaq Evans (6-1, 201, Jr.), No. 10 Jordan Payton (6-2, 214, Fr.), No. 88 Jerry Rice Jr. (5-10, 182, Jr.)
The wide outs don't necessarily put up huge numbers in the Bruins' offense, but this is still a talented unit, headlined by Evans, who leads the way with 39 receptions for 571 yards and two touchdowns.

Tight End/Y-Receiver/F-Back: No. 8 Joseph Fauria (6-7, 255, Sr.), No. 33 Steven Manfro (5-9, 192, Fr.)
Fauria, the Y receiver, is a tremendous pass-catching option because of his size and athletic ability, especially in the red zone -- he leads the Bruins with 9 touchdowns. Manfro, who lines up at F-back, is third on the team with 27 receptions.

Offensive Line: LT No. 77 Torian White (6-5, 285, Fr.), LG No. 56 Xavier Su'a-Filo (6-4, 295, So.), C Jake Brendel (6-4, 295, Fr.) RG No. 60 Jeff Baca (6-3, 295, Sr.), RT No. 70 Simon Goines (6-7, 324, Fr.)
With three freshmen in the starting lineup, this group has understandably been up and down this season. And while it has given up 31 sacks this season, it has also paved the way for the nation's No. 23 rushing attack.

Defense
Scoring: 24.7 points per game (No. 6 Pac-12, No. 47 overall)

Rushing: 144.6 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 44 overall)

Passing: 266.4 yards per game (No. 10 Pac-12, No. 103 overall)

Total: 411 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 75 overall)

Ameer Abdullah and Datone Jones
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireSenior defensive end Datone Jones has 13.5 tackles for loss this season.
Defensive Line: No. 56 Datone Jones (6-4, 275, Sr.), No. 98 Seali'i Epenesa (6-1, 310, Jr.), No. 99 Cassius Marsh (6-3, 275, Jr.)
Running out of a base 3-4 alignment, the defensive line spearheads a UCLA defense that ranks tied for fourth nationally with 3.7 sacks per game. The two ends, in particular, are active and athletic, with Marsh compiling 40 tackles while Jones has accumulated an impressive 13.5 tackles for loss.

Linebacker: No. 43 Damien Holmes (6-2, 250, Sr.), No. 35 Jordan Zumwalt (6-3, 235, Jr.), No. 6 Eric Kendricks (6-0, 230, So.), No. 11 Anthony Barr (6-4, 235, Jr.)
Fast and aggressive, the linebacker corps is led by Kendrick, who sits atop the Pac-12 with 102 tackles. Barr has come on as one of the nation's top pass-rushers this season, racking up 17 tackles for loss, including 11 sacks, with an average of 1.1 per game -- No. 6 in the FBS.

Cornerback: No. 22 Sheldon Price (6-2, 180, Sr.), No. 21 Aaron Hester (6-1, 207, Sr.)
Long and athletic, UCLA's cornerbacks are skilled, to be sure, but they've also had their lapses. Price is certainly opportunistic though -- he's tied for the team lead with four interceptions and he also took a blocked field goal back for a score against Washington State.

Safety: No. 26 Andrew Abbott (5-8, 180, Sr.), No. 7 Tevin McDonald (5-11, 185, So.)
The Bruins gave up 457 yards through the air to Washington State and currently rank No. 103 against the pass, and the play of the safeties has certainly contributed to those numbers. They don't lack in experience though, and Abbott has definite playmaking ability, while McDonald is second on the team with 62 tackles.

Special Teams

Placekicker: No.15 Ka'imi Fairbairn (6-0, 171, Fr.)
Fairbairn, who struggled earlier this season, is now 11 for 16 on field goal attempts.

Punter/Kickoff Specialist: No. 18 Jeff Locke (6-0, 207, Sr.)
Locke has booted 54 of his 69 kickoffs back for touchbacks while averaging 43.3 yards per punt.

Kick Returner: Damien Thigpen (5-8, 178, Jr.), No. 21 Kenneth Walker (5-9, 175, Fr.), No. 1 Shaq Evans (6-1, 201, Jr.)
Thigpen averages an impressive 26.9 yards per kick return, but his availability is in question after missing last week's game with a knee injury.

Punt Returner: No. 33 Steven Manfro (5-9, 192, Fr.), No. 3 Randall Goforth (5-10, 173, Fr.), No. 2 Devin Fuller (6-0, 195, Fr.)
Manfro is still listed atop the UCLA depth chart, but after mishandling a number of punts earlier this season, he hasn't returned any in the past two games.

Johnny Curren

WeAreSC, Reporter