There’s no shot at the Pac-12 title for either team, but that won’t take away anything from the No. 23 USC Trojans and No. 22 UCLA Bruins rivalry on Saturday night at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Trojans are riding a five-game win streak, including the upset of Stanford two weeks ago, and last week’s 47-29 blowout at Colorado. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has made a strong case to have the temporary tag lifted from his title, and a big win over UCLA could mean long-term job security.
The Bruins saw their window for a national title shut last month after two successive losses to Stanford and Oregon, and last week’s 38-33 letdown against Arizona State dashed any hopes of a spot in the conference championship. But the Bruins do have a chance to beat the Trojans for a second year in a row, which hasn’t happened since 1998.
UCLA will have to find a way to shutdown talented USC receiver Marqise Lee, who has battled injuries this season but still come up with 44 receptions for 602 yards and two touchdowns.
There’s also sophomore running back Buck Allen to worry about. Allen gained 145 yards and scored three touchdowns against Colorado, and has broken the century mark three out of the last four games.
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UCLA will counter with quarterback Brett Hundley. The sophomore’s seventh in the Pac-12 with 239.7 passing yards per game, and is the second most efficient passer in the conference with a 155.6 rating.
Hundley will face a vastly improved USC defense that’s let up 18.2 points during their streak. Overall, the Trojans are first in the conference in total defense, allowing 336.6 yards per game and is one of only two teams in the conference to give up fewer than 30 touchdowns all season.
Senior USC linebacker Devon Kennard is tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with 8.0 sacks, and junior safety Dion Bailey is tied for second in the conference with five interceptions.
The Bruins have their own solid defensive front led by senior linebacker Anthony Barr (8.0 sacks) and junior linebacker Eric Kendricks, who’s third in the Pac-12 with 94 total tackles.
Both Barr and Kendricks will try to rattle USC sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler, who’s thrown one interception to seven touchdowns, and completed no fewer than 65 percent of his passes during the Trojans streak.
Betting Odds: USC favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 52 points
Time: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Prediction: USC 30, UCLA 27