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USC-UCLA matchup: Pac-12 South Division title on the line

The Bruins appear to be better equipped to keep pace with the Trojans in several areas this season.

November 16, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin is the sixth-leading rusher in the nation, averaging 127 yards a game entering Saturday's matchup against the Trojans.
Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin is the sixth-leading rusher in… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The Pac-12 Conference South Division and a berth in the Pac-12 title game are on the line in the 82nd football meeting between rivals USC and UCLA. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the game's matchups and story lines:

Marquee matchup

For the first time in years, USC and UCLA both have star quarterbacks.

USC's Matt Barkley has a history of success against the Bruins: He has passed for 827 yards and eight touchdowns in three victories. However, Barkley is coming off a three-interception game against Arizona State. He has passed for 33 touchdowns, with 13 passes intercepted, this season.

Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley is running UCLA's spread offense with savvy that belies his experience.

Hundley ranks 19th nationally in total offense. He has passed for 24 touchdowns, with nine passes intercepted. He also has rushed for six touchdowns. In the last three games, Hundley has completed 77% of his passes, 10 for touchdowns, with two passes intercepted.

Catching on

USC sophomore Marqise Lee is a Biletnikoff Award finalist and is making a serious push for Heisman Trophy consideration.

Lee has averaged 223 all-purpose yards and nearly 10 receptions and 145 yards receiving per game. He is averaging 29.4 yards per kickoff return and has caught 10 or more passes and amassed more than 100 receiving yards seven times this season. Last year, he had 13 receptions against the Bruins.

Junior Robert Woods, who had 12 catches last season against UCLA, has 61 receptions. Freshman Nelson Agholor also is a deep threat.

Shaquelle Evans has a team-best 39 catches for UCLA.

Both teams have outstanding tight ends capable of lining up as wideouts. UCLA's 6-foot-7, 255-pound Joseph Fauria has 31 receptions, nine for touchdowns. USC's Xavier Grimble has five touchdown catches, Randall Telfer three.

Running backs

UCLA senior Johnathan Franklin is the nation's sixth-leading rusher, averaging 127 yards a game. The former Dorsey High standout has run for eight touchdowns and has caught two touchdown passes.

Junior Damien Thigpen, who averages 5.1 yards per carry, is expected to return after sitting out against Washington State because of a sprained knee. He averages 26.9 yards per kickoff return and also has 17 receptions, two for touchdowns.

USC senior Curtis McNeal rushed for a season-high 163 yards and two touchdowns in 31 carries, and also turned a screen pass into a touchdown against Arizona State.

Junior Silas Redd, who has rushed for a team-high 732 yards, sat out against Arizona State because of an undisclosed injury. He practiced this week.

Getting defensive

The Trojans and Bruins are tied for fourth nationally with 37 sacks.

End Morgan Breslin has 91/2 sacks and tackle Leonard Williams 61/2 for a USC defense that recorded seven sacks last week against Arizona State and held the Sun Devils to their lowest point and yardage totals of the season.

UCLA's defense was under siege in the second half last week at Washington State but held on for a 44-36 victory.

Linebacker Anthony Barr ranks sixth nationally with 11 sacks. Linebacker Eric Kendricks is the Bruins' leading tackler and defensive end Datone Jones has 131/2 tackles for losses.

The Bruins, however, rank 103rd among 120 major-college teams against the pass.

Brotherly love

In a fortuitous bit of scheduling, former USC All-American safety Tim McDonald will be able to see his sons, USC safety T.J. McDonald and UCLA safety Tevin McDonald, play at the Rose Bowl.

Tim McDonald is in his first season as secondary coach at Fresno State. The Bulldogs, first nationally with 19 interceptions, have an open date.

"I think he's going to end up wearing his Trojan gear," T.J. said, "just to feel better about himself being in there."

T.J. McDonald has intercepted two passes and leads the Trojans in tackles. Tevin McDonald has one interception and is the Bruins' second-leading tackler.

The specialists

UCLA freshman Ka'imi Fairbairn has made 11 of 16 field-goal attempts, including a 33-yard game-winner as time expired at Arizona State.

Punter Jeff Locke has averaged 43.3 yards per kick.

USC sophomore Andre Heidari has made eight of 11 field-goal attempts.

Punter Kyle Negrete has averaged 42.6 yards per kick.

Leading men

USC Coach Lane Kiffin is 7-1 against the Bruins as an assistant or head coach. Kiffin was offensive coordinator in 2006 when USC lost to UCLA, 13-9.

Jim Mora has a chance to become the second UCLA coach to win nine games in his first season. Terry Donahue achieved the feat in 1976.

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