Friday, November 16, 2012

Why UCLA Will Whip USC

Look for UCLA to whip USC this Saturday and finally obliterate the stench of that 50-0 shredding they suffered in SC's house last season.

SC has owned UCLA this century, winning 12 of the last 13. The lone UCLA ray of sunshine was that shocking 13-9 win in the Karl Dorrell era. Well, after this Saturday, the Bruins will have something else to crow about.

UCLA (8-2) has a better record than USC (7-3) and a slightly higher national ranking, No. 17 to SC's No. 18. No surprise. That's because UCLA is the superior team.

SC is the favorite ( by 3.5-4.5 points) only because bettors still haven't wised up to USC. Wearing those rose-colored glasses, these gamblers are still willing to bet on the Trojans to beat spreads. Here's the reality. SC isn't a powerhouse, just an upper echelon Pac-12 team. Oregon is better, so is Stanford, so is Arizona. Remember, SC is 7-3, having lost to those three teams, not 10-0. That undefeated Trojan juggernaut was a fantasy, built around another fantasy, that Matt Barkley is the best QB in college football, the second coming of Andrew Luck. Nonsense. Barkley isn't even the best QB in the Pac-12. That honor belongs to Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who's a monster. UCLA's Brett Hundley isn't far behind.

Hundley is not just a much more accomplished scrambler and runner than Barkley, but also a more skilled passer. NFL scouts are finally figuring that out too. Hundley is piling up impressive passing stats with a corps  of so-so wide receivers. Barkley, on the other hand, is blessed with brilliant WRs--Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, the BEST player in college football. Without those gems, Barkley, who can be rattled into making terrible decisions and bad throws, would be a very good college QB, nothing more.

UCLA should win Saturday but it won't be easy. The USC passing attack will account for plenty of TDs. Bruin corners Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price will be worn out by those talented SC receivers. But Hundley, partly with passes to giant TE  Joseph Fauria, will brutalize SC's mediocre defense. He's the kind of QB--both quality passer and runner--that the Trojans can't handle. He's backed up by slippery RB Jonathan Franklin, the nation's No. 6 rusher, who should have a big day, particularly if it's raining.

Rookie coaching marvel Jim Mora has supremely boosted the Bruins, pumped them up to the point where they're maximizing their potential. The previous coach, Rick Neuheisel, never came close to getting the best out of his players. SC coach Lane Kiffin doesn't get maximum effort out of his players either. He has twice the talent the Bruins have and should have a significantly better team. But he doesn't.

SC is an undisciplined team that beats itself by making stupid penalties and turnovers in critical situations. Well-coached teams don't make such errors. Do you see units run by Bama's Nick Saban or LSU's Les Miles constantly killing themselves with penalties and turnovers? Never. As usual, SC will be shooting itself in the foot quite often on Saturday.

UCLA should beat the odds and SC, bolstered by those critical intangibles--desire and motivation. The Bruins are desperate to defeat USC, to end the Trojans' reign of terror. An afterthought at the beginning of the season, the Bruins have, with modest talent, turned what promised to be a losing season into a winner, propelled by Mora and his coaching staff and a whopping dose of desire and motivation.

They didn't have those intangibles only once this season, and stumbled to an unfortunate loss to Cal. You just know their cagey coach has used that loss as a teaching tool. They haven't lost since. They won't lose on Saturday either.