It’s been a disappointing college football season for both No.22 UCLA and unranked USC, but Saturday’s game between the two rivals still holds a lot of meaning. When the two teams meet at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum they’ll determine the winner of the Pac-12 South, who will go on to face Stanford in the conference title game.
With just one game left on their regular-season schedules, neither team has a chance to reach the College Football Playoff, even though both started the year ranked in the Top 25. But despite the highs and lows, Saturday’s game could help propel the winner to an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
UCLA suffered back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford in the first half of the season. They’ve beaten three ranked opponents, but an upset loss to Washington State two weeks ago puts them at 5-3 in the conference on the year. USC bounced back from losing three of four games and the firing of Steve Sarkisian with four straight wins in the Pac-12, including a victory over then-No.3 Utah. But the Trojans are coming off a 20-point loss to Oregon, which has them at 7-4 overall on the season.
Because both teams have been up and down, oddsmakers have essentially ruled this game a tossup. USC is a three-point favorite at home, according to vegasinsider.com, though recent history isn’t on their side.
The Bruins have gotten the better of the Trojans in their last three meetings. UCLA earned a 38-20 home win over USC last year, and they won by 21 points the last time they visited the Trojans. For UCLA seniors, it’s a chance to end their careers undefeated against their rivals.
“All the older guys talk about the years before, how they were ashamed to walk around LA, ashamed to see all the USC gear in every store," UCLA linebacker Dean Hollins said via ESPN.com. "Now, those guys are so happy. Graduating without losing to them would be tremendous. I’d think we’d be the first class to do that in a long time.”
This season hasn’t exactly gone like they planned, but they’ve been the best of a mediocre Pac-12 South. USC might be the most talented team in the division, and Saturday’s matchup could produce a competitive shootout.
Led by quarterback Cody Kessler, USC ranks 26th in points per game. UCLA is 41st in points per game, and they were held to 17 points in their last game. But the Bruins had been playing well offensively, averaging 36 points per game in their previous three-game winning streak.
Despite limiting Utah to just nine points in their big win, UCLA’s defense has been among the worst in the country. They’ve allowed at least 30 points in five of their last eight games. USC ranks 74th in points allowed per game, and they surrendered a season-high 48 points in their most recent loss.
A kickoff time for Saturday’s game was announced this past weekend. The game will start at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Prediction: USC's offensive line is due for an improved performance and should be able to take advantage of UCLA’s poor defense without star linebacker Myles Jack. USC running backs Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis could combine to have their best game of the season, facing the No.84-ranked run defense in college football. The Trojans should pull off the win, but expect a close game.