USC TROJANS (7-3)
at UCLA BRUINS (8-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:00 p.m. EDT
Line: USC -3, Total: 66
A classic in-state rivalry resumes on Saturday when No. 17 UCLA clashes with No. 18 USC.
USC is 12-1 SU (9-4 ATS) against UCLA since 1999, including five straight victories by a combined score of 158 to 35 (24.6 PPG margin). Trojans QB Matt Barkley went 35-of-42 for 423 yards and 6 TD in a 50-0 shutout of the Bruins last November. Marqise Lee, who currently ranks second in FBS in both catches (9.8 per game) and receiving yards (145 YPG), caught 13 passes for 224 yards and 2 TD. But USC has dropped two of three games while UCLA has won four straight, averaging 44.0 PPG during the win streak.
Which California team will prevail on Saturday afternoon? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
Although Barkley lit up UCLA last year, he had an off-day at the Rose Bowl in 2010, completing just 15-of-26 passes for 198 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. In four true road games this season, Barkley has just 7 TD and 5 INT. But in addition to Lee (1,447 rec. yds, 13 TD), he also has another outstanding wideout at his disposal in junior Robert Woods (653 rec. yds, 10 TD) who caught 12 passes for 113 yards and 2 TD in the romp over the Bruins last year. This trio will be busy once again, especially with top RB Silas Redd (81 rush YPG) still bothered by an injured ankle. The Trojans did run for 225 yards in last week's 38-17 victory over Arizona State, but throwing the football is the best way to beat UCLA, which has allowed 266 passing YPG (106th in FBS) and only 145 rushing YPG (45th in FBS). Barkley will have to be wary of the Bruins fierce pass rush that has 3.7 sacks per game (T-4th in nation) and 7.8 Tackles For Loss per game (7th in FBS). The whole team will need to stress ball protection as USC has 13 giveaways over the past three contests.
UCLA continues to be carried by RB Johnathan Franklin, whose 127 rushing YPG ranks sixth in the nation. Franklin has had great success in his career versus USC with 7.7 yards per carry, but has gotten just 25 carries over his three meetings with his rival. Franklin can certainly handle a bigger workload considering he has 199 rushing attempts this season, including 91 carries (22.8 per game) in his past four contests, resulting in 471 yards and 5 TD. Freshman QB Brett Hundley has also been playing outstanding football during the four-game win streak, completing 75-of-99 passes for 1,006 yards, 11 TD and 2 INT. He'll have to get rid of the football quickly though, as his team allows 3.1 sacks per game, which is tied for 12th-most in FBS. And USC knows how to bring the heat, tallying the same amount of sacks as UCLA (3.7 per game, T-4th in nation) with slightly more Tackles For Loss (7.9 per game, 4th in FBS). The Bruins have done an excellent job protecting the football in their past three home games, committing only one turnover. But they have certainly been turnover-prone in 2012 with five multi-turnover games so far and three last week at Washington State.