Rivalry predictions

All the experts agree on one thing: the USC v. UCLA game is going to be great. I would agree.

They also seem to agree that USC will narrowly edge out UCLA for the W. Also agreed.

I’ve learned never to take rivalries for granted. More so to take grudge-match rivalries for granted.

Last year, two coaches took their issues out on each other, and Lane Kiffin emerged the victor. I did not and will not agree with his decision to keep the first string offense in for the entirety of the blow-out. That’s not the class I’d like USC to display. But his feathers were ruffled by the billboards and the taunting of Rick Neuheisel, and the high road must have seemed too high. Statement made. USC still has the monopoly on football, Rick.

But this year, UCLA doesn’t have a coach bent on rhetoric alone. Mora gets it done. The dynamic has shifted and the rivalry is back in full swing, outcome unknown.

I call USC a victor by at least 3 points. This year sees these teams face one another ranked #17 and #18, respectively. Stranger things have happened when UCLA wasn’t ranked and USC was #1. Both teams have a great deal to win and more to lose.

Now, for the technical speak:

Silas Redd is an uncertain factor. He’s a playmaker, but his status is unknown.
Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are reliable offensive players who will, no doubt, have a great game against UCLA’s secondary. The O-Line needs to step up to protect Barkley so he can do his thing.

USC’s defense is not what it used to be. The “Linebacker U” baton has been passed to…well, someone else. UCLA will probably be able to run the score up more than they have in the past because of USC’s weaker defense and UCLA’s own playmaker, Jonathan Franklin.

Penalties might even decide this game, considering both teams’ records this year.

USC is a passing powerhouse when it wants to be. If Barkley can avoid throwing into deep coverage and the receivers can nail their routes, it is going to be difficult for UCLA to stop them.

While we can talk stats all day, what it will come down to between these two teams is: the inner game. Who wants it more? And who can remain steady in the face of great desire and pressure?

Lane Kiffin could steal a note from Pete Carroll as far as harnessing the psychology of the team. If Kiffin approaches tomorrow’s game with cool confidence, inspires the guys when they’re down and gets creative instead of running the ball up the middle on 3rd and 9, we should be just fine. Otherwise, the win goes to the team with the coach wearing powder blue.

While much rides on this game, if USC can play like it has nothing to lose, chances are they won’t lose anything.

Fight on, Trojans! Beat the Bruins!

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