PAC-12 Preview: Crosstown Rivals USC and UCLA
USC Trojans, definitely appeared to be the clear cut Pac-12 southern division champions but needless to say this will not happen because the team is simple ineligible for any bowl invitation including the conference championship. So there will no national championship to celebrate going to coach Lane Kiffin and company. Additionally, losing scholarship came as big hit to the program as well. Keep mind this will not be easy win for any of their opponents especially in their conference they will be playing for pride throughout the season but when the play their conference rivals they would love to become the spoiler and focus all the attention towards them. In a radio interview in for ESPN Los Angeles coach Kiffin explain he looking for his team to have more intensity this season especially in late game situations.
To rise above the mess the Trojans are their quarterback Matt Barkley is one of the top prospects in the country and has the ability to lead the team to great season. USC will score lots of points their top talented receiver Robert Woods and other talented play-makers in the backfield will move the ball. Only concern maybe at defense last season the team gave up an average of 400 yards per game. I’m predicting the Trojans to not be as strong as people may think and finish the season 8-4.
Right down the freeway is the Trojans crosstown rival the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins coached by Rick Neuheisel appears to be now a team and a man on a mission with the will win. Neuheisal is basically a coach on the “Hot Seat”, now he has a chance to saddle up and pull is team out of the cellar of the conference and achieve greatness. But can he do it that’s what remains in question. Last season that had a great run in the non-conference games but fell to 4-8 ending the season with a losing record.
Neuheisal specifically was question by SI among others Question (1), To what extent is the negativity around the program after a 4-8 season? “people are pessimistic because we haven’t given them anything to be excited about.” “It’s years since the team’s been where we all think it should be” Question (2) he ask was, Do you feel any pressure added to have a winning season? He said, “If you don’t like pressure, don’t get into college football coaching.” “No one going to put more pressure on me than I do.”
Looking at a practice at the Westwood campus in Los Angeles, there are some things to be excited about. Running back Jonathan Franklin was the conference's fifth-leading rusher last season, averaging 93.9 yards per game. On defense they also appear to have a powerful strength they have eight defensive starters returning and are really good in creating a commanding rushing attack. The concern comes in their passing game something that been haunting the team the past several years. Last year, they ranked 116th in the country in passing yards. If the team doesn’t improve this season they will not compete in the new conference well. I would like to provide hope for their team but with the passing game in shambles it doesn’t look good for the Bruins headed into the 2011 season. To give my honest opinion my prediction on the season is 5-8. But don't be surprise if the come out to be the sleeper of the division and make their way to the conference championship.
Could this be the year UCLA moves in front of USC? It can only happen it's Hollywood. As in keeping in their tradition the two teams visit each other in "LA LA land" this time in the Memmorial Coliseum for the last game of the season on November 26th around Thanksgiving. Believe me USC may be ineligible for any Bowl game this season they will play like this it in this game against the Bruins and would love to stop the UCLA from going anywhere.