It’s RIVALRY WEEK! Welcome to the BEAT $c* version of Pregame Guesses. Coming off perhaps their most complete game of the season, a 44-37 victory over Arizona State, the UCLA Bruin football team (5-5, 3-4 PAC 12) heads across town to the Mausoleum to face the Evil Empire, i.e., the Southern Cal Trojans (9-2, 7-1 PAC 12).
If you believe the national media (and the odds makers in Las Vegas), the Bruins do not appear to have a chance against the Trojans. With good reason, everybody is picking Southern Cal to win this game and the spread (Southern Cal minus 16) reflects the disparity between the teams. On paper, the offenses look pretty equal but the Trojans appear to have a clear advantage on the defensive side of the ball (or do they . . .???).
As a UCLA fan, one could say “that’s why they play the games” or “it’s a rivalry game; anything can happen” but, frankly, UCLA does not look to have much of a shot in this game. The Bruins are 0-5 on the road this season and have given up 48, 58, 47, 44, and 48 points away from the Rose Bowl. On AVERAGE, UCLA is giving up an unconscionable 49 points in cities other than Pasadena—seven touchdowns. Ouch.
There is nothing to suggest that the Bruins will somehow change their identity and learn how to play defense against Southern Cal.
Indeed, it has been a long time since there has been an upset in this series. 2006, to be exact, when a Patrick Cowen led Bruin team knocked then #2 ranked Southern Cal out of contention for a national title, upsetting the Trojans and John David Booty, 13-9.
UCLA gets another chance to show its (UCLA) stripes on national television. Pundits and scouts are slobbering over the quarterback matchup between Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, both of whom figure to be early first round picks in the 2018 draft. Will the quarterbacks live up to the hype? Will UCLA be able to stop the Trojan offensive machine and make a game of it? These questions will be answered tomorrow night at 5 p.m. P.T.
Musical selections for the Southern Cal game can be tough. A song about standing up and fighting for oneself against the odds is certainly an option, especially when the outlook is akin to lambs being led to a slaughter. “Hail to the Hills of Westwood” or “The Mighty Bruins” certainly fire up a Bruin fan, but I went this route two years ago. Picking an L.A. band for the “Crosstown Rivalry” is an option, but I did this last year, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This year, I am going to allow my extreme dislike for the team across town to shine through. Here is Green Day’s F.O.D., the final song on their breakthrough album from 1994. NOTE: There are a couple of instances of a curse word in this song. If you are offended by music that contains curse words, you might just want to skip this one (although the word is not super prevalent in the tune).
I can't explain it 'cause I think you suck
This game is the nationally televised prime time (on the east coast) ABC game for one reason and one reason only: Josh Rosen vs. Sam Darnold. Do not think for a second that the folks at ESPN/Disney/ABC thought that this game would be a competitive matchup between equal teams. This game was picked for prime time because of the quarterbacks, both of whom will likely be picked in the top 10 of the 2018 draft. That having been said, both QBs have shown some deficiencies. Both have thrown more interceptions than was expected. Darnold’s decision making has been questioned. Rosen’s toughness and scrambling ability have been questioned. So the first PGG will address the obvious. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 1: Predict the number of passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions for both Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold.
One aspect of UCLA’s game that has improved in the last three weeks is in the penalty department. UCLA is still one of the most penalized teams in the nation (tied for #117), but the Bruins only incurred five penalties for 39 yards against Arizona State, five penalties for 40 yards against Utah, and six penalties for 59 yards against Washington. Before that, UCLA was averaging nine penalties per game and close to 90 yards per game in penalties. This is an improvement in a category that has plagued Jim Mora’s UCLA teams in his six year tenure. In a year in which so much has gone wrong, you look for positives wherever you can find them. Believe it or not, Southern Cal is even more penalized than UCLA at #124 in the nation. In this rivalry game, you can bet that the teams will be heated which, combined with the S.P.T.R.s’ proclivity for throwing yellow handkerchiefs, could lead to lots and lots of penalties for both teams. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 2: Which team will be more heavily penalized tomorrow evening, UCLA or Southern Cal?
If the respective offenses of the two teams are roughly equivalent, one would think that the major difference between 5-5 UCLA Bruins and the 9-2 Southern Cal Trojans would be the defense, right? Well, at least statistically, Southern Cal’s defense is not that much better than the Bruins’ defense. The Trojans are #71 in the nation, allowing 401.6 yards per game to opponents’ offenses. UCLA is worse, but not that much worse, allowing 499 yards per game, good for #123 in the nation. That’s a difference of only 97.4 yards per game, less than 25 yards per quarter. That is one drop on medium range passes by a UCLA receivers per quarter. If UCLA’s receiving corps can manage to focus for a rivalry game and catch the ball better than they have this season, this advantage could be nullified. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: How many catchable balls will UCLA players drop in the game against Southern Cal?
BONUS GUESS: I despise Southern Cal, especially that droning, repetitive, boring dirge of a song that their sorry excuse for a band plays over and over and over again--not the fight song; that’s bad enough; I’m talking about the other garbage that emits from their instruments. How many times will UCLA fans need to mute the sound in order to prevent their ears from bleeding due to that cacophony of sound?
That’s a wrap for the Rivalry Week edition of Pregame Guesses. Make your guesses and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Go Bruins! Beat $c*!