No. 12 UCLA and No. 8 USC will face off Saturday on the Rose Bowl.
After a weekend stuffed with surprises, Los Angeles Occasions faculty soccer writers Ben Bolch, Ryan Kartje, J. Brady McCollough and Thuc Nhi Nguyen reply key questions concerning the two groups.
How will UCLA reply to dropping to Arizona?
Bolch: The Bruins didn’t want further motivation within the rivalry sport however discovered it in going splat in opposition to Arizona on their dwelling area. That might present extra catharsis in beating the Trojans to get again into sturdy rivalry for the Pac-12 title sport. Dorian Thompson-Robinson additionally goes to need to replicate his superhuman efficiency in opposition to USC from final season on the Rose Bowl in what is perhaps his last dwelling sport (except the Bruins return on Jan. 2). UCLA security Mo Osling III offered a prediction, to not point out bulletin-board fodder, when he stated “we know we’re gonna replicate it” in response to a query about the potential of repeating UCLA’s 62-33 beatdown of the Trojans at dwelling final season.
McCollough: Ben’s proper. The loss to Arizona is barely going to make UCLA extra resolute and centered on transferring its ache to its bitter rival. The USC sport simply grew to become even greater for the Bruins. In the event that they lose, all momentum constructed over the primary 10 weeks of the season may have been erased, and the questions on Chip Kelly’s capability to get UCLA over the hump will begin anew. Fortunately, Kelly’s “win the day” mantra is supposed for instances like this. The Bruins ought to be well-practiced in not lingering previously and play their greatest sport of the season Saturday on the Rose Bowl.
Nguyen: I don’t anticipate the Bruins to, as Chip Kelly says, let Arizona beat them twice by succumbing to a hangover. With an skilled workforce like this, UCLA ought to know higher.
Kartje: UCLA could have squandered its shot on the playoff, however there’s nonetheless lots to play for. And what higher technique to redeem itself than by delivering the identical devastating blow to their rival’s playoff hopes?
What does the lack of Travis Dye imply for USC?
Kartje: The scene of USC’s sideline emptying to encompass their lead working again spoke volumes about what Dye has meant to this workforce all season. On a workforce stuffed with transfers, he was the glue that certain USC’s locker room collectively. He additionally occurred to be among the finest working backs within the Pac-12, a prolific all-purpose weapon who all the time discovered a method so as to add an additional yard or two to each contact. Now it’s as much as Austin Jones and Raleek Brown to fill that void, and whereas each are proficient backs in their very own proper, they aren’t almost as well-rounded as Dye. If UCLA decides to dictate the tempo of this sport by pounding away on the bottom — prefer it ought to — USC goes to battle to match its rival’s speeding assault. That inevitably means extra strain on the shoulders of quarterback Caleb Williams.
McCollough: The picture of all the USC soccer program gathering across the fallen Travis Dye will final eternally. The younger man has had an even bigger impression in his quick time with the Trojans than everybody not named Caleb Williams. He’s a heart-and-soul type of man, and his grit is simply the type of factor that may assist a workforce beat its rival. He will likely be missed, however USC has loads of expertise able to step in with Stanford switch Austin Jones and freshman Raleek Brown. Jones was one of many high recruits within the nation in his class and has been ready for his likelihood to shine. Jones can run the ball simply advantageous, however Dye’s intangibles — like being among the finest pass-protecting backs within the nation — will likely be missed.
Bolch: Dye’s absence will imply not only a change in personnel, however possible one in scheme as properly. The Trojans will in all probability throw the ball extra — and that might be a bonus for them given the best way UCLA’s secondary has struggled in opposition to quarterbacks far much less gifted than Williams.
Nguyen: It’s not solely Dye’s capability to run the ball that set him aside in USC’s offense, but it surely’s his cross safety that the Trojans will miss most. As he put it this yr: “No blocky, no rocky.” It’ll be onerous for Jones and particularly Brown, a freshman, to duplicate that type of physicality to assist preserve Caleb Williams upright in opposition to an opportunistic UCLA protection that features the Murphy twins and Laiatu Latu. The Trojans gave up three sacks to Colorado, a workforce that had simply six coming into the sport.
What’s the largest positional benefit for every workforce coming into the sport?
Bolch: Chip Kelly actually solely must name three performs — Zach Charbonnet, inside zone; Charbonnet, up the center; Charbonnet, outsize zone — to win the sport given what number of yards UCLA’s working again ought to be capable to generate in opposition to USC’s protection. As for the Trojans, after watching footage of UCLA’s secondary, Caleb Williams hasn’t licked his lips this a lot since they have been parched and cracked through the useless of an Oklahoma winter.
Kartje: For USC, Saturday begins and ends with its star quarterback. Caleb Williams has been stellar all season, throwing 31 touchdowns to only two interceptions as he’s soared towards Heisman Trophy rivalry. His capability to navigate the pocket and escape strain is in contrast to some other quarterback within the Pac-12 — and fairly probably the nation. Count on USC’s offense to come back out swinging from the beginning in an effort to get Williams in a rhythm. UCLA has the cross rush to make him uncomfortable, but when he has time to work, Williams may make mince meat of the Bruins’ subpar secondary. For UCLA, the formulation couldn’t be extra easy: Feed Zach Charbonnet. Tire out USC’s protection. Rinse. Repeat. USC’s entrance has been higher in opposition to the run in current weeks, but it surely hasn’t confronted a again like Charbonnet all season. He ought to discover loads of room to run, particularly if USC is as soon as once more with out injured inside linebacker Eric Gentry.
McCollough: USC’s broad receivers ought to have a area day in opposition to a UCLA cross protection that simply let Arizona’s group flaunt its abilities all around the Rose Bowl. The Trojans ought to get Mario Williams again this week, becoming a member of Jordan Addison, and their absences have constructed a ton of confidence within the Trojans’ depth at that place. UCLA ought to really feel nice about its capability to run the ball with Zach Charbonnet on USC’s defensive entrance. That will likely be one of the best ways to maintain Caleb Williams off the sphere, too.
Nguyen: It doesn’t matter what workforce, I’d be very excited to be an offensive participant on Saturday. I’m anticipating a shootout with two high-powered offenses in opposition to defenses which have struggled. UCLA’s benefit within the run sport that Brady talked about will get even greater with Travis Dye out whereas Caleb Williams ought to be salivating over a UCLA secondary that could be lacking beginning nook Devin Kirkwood, who was out in opposition to Arizona.
Who or what would be the X-factor within the sport?
Kartje: I’ve been calling for five-star USC freshman Raleek Brown to burst onto the scene all season, so what higher time for a breakout than the crosstown rivalry? Because the second Brown stepped onto USC’s campus, his teammates have predicted his ascent to stardom. The freshman has two touchdowns within the final three weeks, and with Dye out, I anticipate Riley to tug out all of the stops to spark his speeding assault. Well timed turnovers may additionally play a significant half on Saturday. USC at present boasts among the finest turnover margins in current faculty soccer historical past. If UCLA can flip that script, it may make the distinction.
McCollough: The Trojans will want some well-timed massive performs from their protection to stall drives or flip momentum with turnovers as they’ve all season. I like security Calen Bullock to make a kind of performs Saturday. For UCLA, the X-factor will likely be Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s capability to scramble out of bother and run for giant chunks of yardage.
Bolch: UCLA’s Kazmeir Allen might be a bit neglected within the scouting report given he didn’t play final weekend due to an unspecified damage. He returned to follow Monday and displayed his ordinary blazing velocity. His capability to interrupt a kickoff return 100 yards and rating lengthy touchdowns on quick passes ought to make him a continuing fear for the Trojans.
Nguyen: With offenses this potent, it’ll come all the way down to which workforce can get a well timed cease. For USC, that always comes from Tuli Tuipulotu, the nation’s chief in sacks. The Bruins have to match USC’s cross rush and make Caleb Williams uncomfortable.
Who will name higher performs, Chip Kelly or Lincoln Riley?
Bolch: With two of faculty soccer’s high offensive minds going in opposition to two of the weakest defenses within the Pac-12, Lawler’s Regulation — first workforce to 100 factors wins — is perhaps in impact. All kidding apart, you may anticipate some distinctive formations and performs from each coaches whereas giving a clinic within the artwork of the un-scouted look. Let’s not overlook that Riley has already gone 2-0 in opposition to Kelly, whipping the Bruins by a mixed rating of 97-35 whereas teaching at Oklahoma. Right here’s betting that Kelly hasn’t forgotten about these losses that got here in opposition to far weaker UCLA groups. On condition that he now has the most effective working again within the rivalry sport in Zach Charbonnet, Kelly ought to discover a technique to out-scheme his Trojans counterpart.
Kartje: I’ve seen sufficient from Riley this season to know he’ll have one thing up his sleeve we haven’t seen. That’s the place Raleek Brown may are available as a possible X-factor. Dye’s absence will definitely have an effect on these plans, but it surely additionally provides a layer of unpredictability to USC’s offense. Riley has already outsmarted Kelly earlier than, and this time, I anticipate he’ll have all the kitchen sink able to throw at him.
McCollough: The previous couple of weeks, I’ve had this sense that Lincoln Riley is holding a lid on a complete array of performs that he expects can get the Trojans excessive of their two large rivalry video games to complete the season. USC’s gamers and manageable schedule have been capable of get Riley to this sport at 9-1 with a playoff berth nonetheless in attain, and his mind and guile as a play caller will shine by means of in key conditions Saturday.
Nguyen: Within the spirit of holding some secrets and techniques wrapped up for the rivalry sport, I used to be shocked Riley used the pretend extra-point play in a blowout in opposition to Colorado as an alternative of saving backup punter Will Rose (and his celebratory backflip) for UCLA. If he was prepared to play that card in opposition to the Buffaloes, I’m certain Riley has an excellent greater shock in his play sheet this week.
Who goes to win and why?
McCollough: I picked USC to begin 9-1 and end 9-3, and I picked the Bruins to beat USC and lose to Cal the subsequent week, additionally ending 9-3. That is going to be an ideal sport, and for simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick to my unique instinct. UCLA finds a method.
Nguyen: Backed right into a nook after final week’s loss, I anticipate UCLA will punch its method again into the Pac-12 race on this must-win state of affairs. The Bruins are going to be taking part in with desperation the identical method Utah was when the Utes knocked off USC in Salt Lake Metropolis.
Bolch: Thompson-Robinson isn’t going to finish his faculty profession with two consecutive dwelling losses. He’ll hurdle Traveler if he has to on the best way to engineering one other storybook UCLA victory within the rivalry. Bruins win, 52-48.
Kartje: That is certain to invoke the wrath of USC followers in every single place, however seems to be like we’re all in settlement. I simply don’t see the Trojans’ protection slowing down Zach Charbonnet or forcing sufficient errors out of Dorian Thompson-Robinson. These two groups are about as evenly matched as they arrive, and the primary workforce to power the opposite to punt a second time could very properly win it. Give me UCLA in a barnburner, 48-42.