The Southern Cal defense has been strong all season long despite beginning the year without much depth and sustaining significant injuries that have essentially required the starting defense to play without subs. In their 12 games, Southern Cal has held 6 of their opponents to under 300 yards and are only allowing 336 total yards per game on average.
As would be expected with short handed team, Southern Cal has struggled in defending spread up tempo offenses. Arizona St., Arizona, and Berkeley averaged 534 ypg against the Trojan defense, and averaged 81 plays per game rather than the 67 that the defense normally faces.
Southern Cal's defensive line consists of three former defensive tackles in George Uko (6'3 275 lbs Jr.), Leonard Williams (6'5 290 lbs So.), and Antwaun Woods (6'1 310 lbs So.). The three will not come off the field often, and the effort they have provided since Coach O took over has been impressive. Woods will play the nose position with Williams and Uko flanking at ends. Williams and Uko have combined for 10 sacks, and given our offensive line's performance last week, the duo could pose serious threats to our offense this week.
The linebacking corps got some much needed size by moving Devon Kennard (6'3 256 lbs. Sr.) and J.R. Tavai (6'2 270 lbs. Jr.) to linebacker and Dion Bailey (6'1 210 lbs Jr.) from linebacker to safety. Kennard leads the team with 8 sacks and having a great year after returning from injury. The pass rush would have been even more formidable had Morgan Breslin not been lost to injury this year. Tavai has been solid in filling in for Breslin, but he does not have Breslin's athleticism.
Hayes Pullard (6'2 235 lbs So.) and Anthony Sarao (6'2 215 lbs. So.) round out the linebacking corps. Pullard leads the team with 75 tacks and Sarao has been playing well over the past few weeks filling in for injured Lamar Dawson. The two are very athletic and match up well against Mazzone's swing passes.
The aforementioned Dion Bailey has moved to FS and starts alongside Sua Cravens (6'1 215 lbs. Fr.). Bailey was always a very good coverage linebacker, and the transition to safety has been smooth. He has 53 tackles and 5 interceptions this season. Cravens has been as good as advertised in his freshman season, and adds 46 tackles and 4 interceptions. Leon McQuay (6'1 190 lbs. Fr.) and Demetrius Wright (6'1 195 lbs. Sr.) will also see time and allow Bailey and Cravens to move into coverage linebacker spots in nickel packages.
Cornerbacks Josh Shaw (6'0 190 lbs Jr.) and Kevon Seymour (6'0 175 lbs. So.) have been solid all season and should be on the field the entire game. Southern Cal lost Torin Harris to injury, so Shaw and Seymour will be asked to do a lot on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the offenses employs a strategy to try and tire these two out early.
That concludes the Southern Cal preview. Fire away with additional thoughts, comments, and favorite stories about the crosstown rivalry.