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How They Match Up

December 03, 2005|Lonnie White


* With tackles Winston Justice and Sam Baker and guard Taitusi Lutui -- all listed at 300 pounds or more -- the Trojan offensive line holds a huge size advantage over the Bruins, whose heaviest defensive lineman, Brigham Harwell, is listed at 274. USC's Reggie Bush and LenDale White have rushed for more than 1,000 yards each, but White could be at less than 100% because of a shoulder injury. Fullbacks David Kirtman and Brandon Hancock could be the X-factors for the Trojans. UCLA linemen Harwell and Justin Hickman do a good job using their quickness, but the Bruins will count heavily on senior linebackers Spencer Havner, Wesley Walker and Justin London to make plays. UCLA is also expected to give playing time to linebackers Christian Taylor, John Hale and Eric McNeal, a converted strong safety.

Edge: USC.


* The Bruins have led the Pacific 10 Conference in pass defense for much of the season, but that can at least partially be attributed to UCLA's weakness against the run. Cornerbacks Trey Brown and Marcus Cassel have been solid, and senior safety Jarrad Page is among college football's most underrated defensive backs. The Bruin secondary will be tested by last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart, who has a strong corps of receivers to work with, the best of whom are Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Jarrett has 14 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards receiving; Smith needs 100 more to reach that mark. Tight ends Dominique Byrd and Fred Davis are also solid targets. Edge: USC.


* Running backs Maurice Drew and Chris Markey give the Bruins a strong 1-2 punch behind an underrated offensive line. Although UCLA will be without injured opening-day starters in Mike McCloskey (shoulder), Chris Joseph (knee) and Brian Abraham (ankle), the Bruins still feel good about their front, which is led by sophomore guard Shannon Tevaga. Fullback Michael Pitre is like an extra lineman in the backfield for UCLA, which has the Pac-10's fourth-best rushing attack. The Trojans are young at linebacker, with freshmen Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga both getting plenty of playing time and former walk-on Collin Ashton also playing a big role. USC has two strong ends in Lawrence Jackson and Frostee Rucker. The Trojans are the best in the conference against the run.

Edge: USC.


* The Trojans' shaky secondary will be severely tested by Drew Olson, who has 22 touchdown passes and one interception in the last six games. Olson's favorite target is tight end Marcedes Lewis. UCLA's top wide receivers -- Joe Cowan, Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell -- are solid if not spectacular. USC's Josh Pinkard has played well at cornerback since moving from safety last month, but Justin Wyatt has had his problems on the other side. Trojan safety Scott Ware is a heavy hitter but can be vulnerable against the pass. USC's best defensive back is strong safety Darnell Bing, who will often match up against Lewis, a former Long Beach Poly High teammate.

Edge: UCLA.


* The Trojans are giving up five yards more a punt return than any other team in the Pac-10. That's a danger sign against UCLA and Drew, who leads the nation in punt returns with a 29.07-yard average. USC is giving up 11.4 yards a punt return and its kickoff coverage is not much better. The Trojans have given up 1,112 more yards in kickoff returns than any other team in the conference. Of course, they've also kicked off 14 more times than any other team. Neither UCLA punter Aaron Perez nor his USC counterpart, Tom Malone, has been called upon very often. UCLA kicker Justin Medlock has a strong and accurate leg. USC's Mario Danelo has made nine of 10 field-goal attempts. The Trojans' Bush is averaging 10.5 yards a punt return, which includes one of 84 yards for a touchdown against Washington. Edge: UCLA.


* Until USC's Pete Carroll and his staff lose another game, they hold an advantage over any coaching staff. Winning 33 consecutive games speaks for itself, but the Bruins' staff has also done a great job of turning things around in Westwood. Game adjustments are often overrated, but both staffs have made the right moves in key wins this season.

Edge: USC.


* The Bruins have not played since Nov. 12 and have used the extra time to put together a well-thought-out game plan for the Trojans, who have had two weeks to get ready. UCLA also gained confidence from last year's 29-24 loss to USC. The Bruins will have London back in the lineup and he's an important piece in their defense against the run.

Edge: UCLA.

* Prediction: USC 48, UCLA 34.



*--* UCLA USC 40.0 Scoring 48.6 30.6 Points allowed 21.5 295.5 Passing offense 322.1 148.9 Rushing offense 249.2 444.4 Total offense 571.3 215.9 Passing defense 234.7 219.5 Rushing defense 116.3 435.4 Total defense 351.0


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