Friday, November 16, 2012

College Football: USC at UCLA, The Battle For The Victory Bell.

A year ago, Matt Barkley and Southern California walloped UCLA to extend their dominance of the Victory Bell.

The Bruins would like to return the favor as they try to continue their return to national relevance.

Meeting for the first time as ranked opponents in seven years, the No. 21 Trojans look to beat No. 17 UCLA for the 13th time in 14 tries Saturday with the Pac-12 South Division title on the line.

Barkley completed 35 of 42 passes for 423 yards with a career high-tying six touchdowns to lead Southern California (7-3, 5-3) to a 50-0 romp of UCLA last November. It was the most lopsided result between the Los Angeles rivals since 1930, and extended the Trojans’ winning streak in the series to five games.

Their dominance in that stretch includes outscoring the Bruins 158-35 while averaging 459.6 yards offensively.

Extending the run would give USC a berth in the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30. That’s seen as a source of solace for coach Lane Kiffin as Southern California has failed to live up to expectations after starting the season No. 1 in the AP poll.

“We’re not pleased. We’ve screwed a couple of games up, obviously. None of us wanted to be where our win-loss record is,” Kiffin said. “At the same time, you want to be alive. A lot of people in the country are not playing for the ability to win their conference, and we are fortunately. We’re in a one-game playoff for the South, and then we’ll have another game for the conference championship.

“From that perspective, it’s a good place to be in and a lot to play for.”

Kiffin may need an improved performance from Barkley, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 222 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 38-17 win over Arizona State last week. The senior has tossed seven picks over the past three games, with USC losing two of them.

UCLA enters this matchup ranked higher than the Trojans for the first time since 2001, and following last year’s drubbing, the team hardly needs any extra motivation.

“We know who we’re playing,” linebacker Dalton Hilliard said. “It’s another stepping stone for us to prove ourselves, to get our names back in the running for the BCS and for the top teams in the nation. But you can’t play this game any differently than any other game this year.”

First-year coach Jim Mora wants the Bruins to remain focused as they go for their first five-game winning streak since opening 2005 at 8-0. December of that year marked the last time UCLA and USC met as ranked teams, and the Trojans prevailed.

“It’s going to be emotional,” Mora said. “You’ve gotta capture that emotion because you want to have that emotion, but you have to control it. The last thing I know that I want is chippiness on the field because I think that it takes away from the concentration that’s necessary to perform a particular play.”

The Bruins have had little trouble scoring the last four games, totaling 176 points while averaging 446.3 yards of offense.

Brett Hundley had 261 yards on 18-of-21 passing with three touchdowns and one interception in last weekend’s 44-36 win at Washington State. The freshman has thrown 24 touchdowns compared to nine INTs while also running for six scores.

Still, Jonathan Franklin is the Bruins’ top threat on the ground, ranking third in the conference with 1,270 yards while averaging 6.4 yards per carry and totaling 10 TDs. He was limited to 66 yards on 19 attempts last week, but was effective out of the backfield with four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

In three meetings against USC in a limited role, Franklin has 192 yards and one touchdown on 25 rushes.
Defensively, UCLA is among the conference leaders in takeaways with 25 — including 13 interceptions.

The Trojans are tied with California with a Pac-12 worst 26 turnovers after giving the ball away 13 times over the last three games, including five against the Sun Devils.

Despite the turnovers, Marqise Lee was outstanding with 10 receptions for 161 yards and one touchdown.

The sophomore has hauled in 38 passes for 663 yards and five TDs in three games, and couldn’t be stopped by UCLA last year — finishing with 13 receptions for 224 yards and two scores.
Brandon Kendrick
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