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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Football Hosts Southern Cal at the Rose Bowl

Both teams will be playing for the L.A. City Championship, pride, and not much more.

Utah v UCLA
This would be a good sight tomorrow afternoon at the Rose Bowl. Several of these, please!
Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

The UCLA Bruins football team (2-8, 2-5) is riding a three-game losing streak heading into Rivalry Week and a battle against the deservedly vilified Southern Cal Trojans (5-5, 4-4). The Trojans have lost three of their last four, with their only win against lowly Oregon State.

Both teams have freshman quarterbacks who may or may not start and both teams are just not that good. It’s just that, on paper, the Bruins appear to be worse. That’s not to say that UCLA cannot win this game. That is far from the case. Both teams, obviously, always get up for this game and there have been some surprises in the past.

Beat SC! Beat SC! The only music that can accompany those words must come from the Solid Gold Sound of the UCLA Marching Band! You are commanded to play both songs (both in the same clip) at full volume and on repeat while you read this article. Get pumped up!

That is all. Now to the guesses. But keep listening/repeating. :)

There are a lot of parallels between the 2018 version of the UCLA Bruins and the Southern Cal Trojans. First and foremost, both teams feature highly-regarded true freshman quarterbacks. As an aside, the two faced each other in 2017 too, as high school seniors. JT Daniels’ Mater Dei Monarchs beat Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s Bishop Gorman Gaels, 35-21, on September 2, 2017.

Now, at Southern Cal, Daniels started his first game as a freshman and has struggled, with a completion percentage of only 57.2%, 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Daniels missed Southern Cal’s loss to Arizona State due to concussion symptoms suffered in the Utah loss. Freshman Jack Sears played the Arizona State game, but Daniels has played the last two games, one was a win against Oregon State and last week’s game was a loss to UC Berkeley. Does Sears have a chance to play?

DTR has also struggled as a true freshman. Inconsistency and injuries have taken a toll. Thompson-Robinson’s completion percentage, 57.7%, is eerily similar to Daniels’ completion percentage. DTR has 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, but has only thrown 194 passes, to Daniels’ 278.

But will #7 even start for the Bruins? Wilton Speight, who has played in the last four games, starting two of them, was not the reason UCLA lost to Oregon. And he played well, just not well enough, against Arizona State.

Will we have a battle of true freshmen? Or will either Sears or Speight start for their respective teams?

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 1 (three-parter): Predict which quarterback starts for Southern Cal. Predict which quarterback starts for UCLA. Do either of the backups play?

As AnteatersandBruins pointed out in BN’s Southern Cal Defensive Preview, the Trojans’ weakness is its defensive line.

And, sure enough, one of UCLA’s unexpected strengths this year has been the play of the offensive line once Boss Tagaloa returned in game four. And, UCLA now has its bell-cow running back in Joshua Kelley.

During the Jim L. Mora years, this might have been one of the “match-ups” that UCLA inexplicably would not exploit. Will Chip exploit the mismatch? I would try to put the ball in Kelley’s hands at least 30 times tomorrow, with several of those touches through the air on screen routes, check downs, and maybe even a wheel route.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 2: Predict the following for Joshua Kelley: rushing attempts, rushing yardage, and rushing touchdowns; and passes caught, reception yards, and receiving touchdowns.

Aside from true freshman QBs, another parallel between the Bruins and the Trojans is both teams’ propensity to commit penalties. This has been part of UCLA’s DNA for a long time, but the Bruins have “improved” this season to #101 in number of penalties, with 74 through ten games, and #84 in penalty yards allowed (60.6 per game).

Southern Cal, believe it or not, is worse in both categories, tied for #113 with 79 penalties, and #118 in penalty yards allowed (74.9 per game).

Who will win the penalty game? It could be a deciding factor.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: Predict the total number of penalties and penalty yardage for both UCLA and Southern Cal.

We’ve been bonus guessing that attendance at the Rose Bowl all year and the attendance has been crappy all year. But this is Rivalry Week. So, let’s switch it up a bit. We know that we will have a bigger crowd. Just how big will it be?

BONUS GUESS: I am setting the over/under at 78,000. Will there be more or less fans in the Rose Bowl for this game?

BONUS GUESS NUMBER 2: Does UCLA win this game at home? If you picked “yes,” this will be a two-part question. If you predicted UCLA to win, and they do, does Southern Cal Head Coach Clay Helton see the sidelines next week against Notre Dame or will the ax fall before the end of the regular season for Coach Helton?

Make your guesses in the comment section below. Fire away with any additional thought on the game that you might have. And don’t forget to perform whatever “Beat $c” rituals you usually perform (and that work) before this game.

Go Bruins!!! Beat SC!!!