Standing at 5-5, Southern Cal’s offensive unit has been a roller coaster ride all season. They’ll have games where they score 30+ and they’ll have games where they score less than 10 points. Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator Tee Martin has been the subject of criticism throughout his tenure, but I’d like to suggest Southern Cal give him a lifetime contract! Here’s how the Southern Cal Trojans will stack up offensively this Saturday against the UCLA Bruins.
Southern Cal will be anchored by team captain Toa Lobendahn at center with Chris Brown and Austin Jackson patrolling the left side and Chuma Edoga and Andrew Vorhees holding down the right side. This offensive line for Southern Cal is just humongous. All of their starters are at least 6’3” and 300+ pounds. This was thought to be a position of strength coming into the season for them, but their O-Line has been very mediocre this season. They have allowed 24 sacks total so far this season, an average of 2.4 sacks per game, and are prone to having the pocket collapse very quickly. It will be interesting to see if UCLA dials up the pressure to try and get to their quarterback early and often.
It’s been a very mediocre season for Southern Cal’s starting quarterback JT Daniels. After being very highly touted coming out of Mater Dei, Daniels has really struggled this season. He was even benched in favor of fellow QB Jack Sears a few times. So far this year, Daniels has compiled 1986 yards through the air, but has only thrown for 11 touchdowns while also throwing 8 interceptions. Not good. His numbers are substantially worse on the road, too. Daniels has only thrown for two touchdowns and five interceptions in road games this year, while averaging a pedestrian 6.76 yards per attempt. He’s also been sacked 13 times on the road as well. Simply said, Southern Cal will need more from Daniels and I’m sure what they’ve seen this season is not cutting it.
One area where Southern Cal can exploit UCLA’s defense is certainly on the ground.
Senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware has been a huge weapon for Southern Cal in the running game this season. He’s piled up 730 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns on only 106 carries. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 6.9 yards per carry. Ware had 205 rushing yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns in their win at Oregon State two weeks ago. The Bruins have gotten gashed on the ground by opposing running backs multiple times this season and Ware will provide a stiff challenge to UCLA’s defense.
Vavae Malepeai leads Southern Cal with 7 touchdowns on the ground while rushing for 403 yards so far this season. We ought to see him be utilized in the passing game, as he leads all Southern Cal running backs with 11 receptions this season. Stephen Carr was supposed to have a huge breakout season this year, but he’s fallen on his face. The sophomore running back has carried the ball 81 times for 384 yards and two scores so far this year. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry, but Southern Cal has deferred to giving the ball to either Ware or Malepeai.
Southern Cal has a few weapons on the outside that will test UCLA’s defensive backs throughout this battle for the Victory Bell.
Freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has had an up-and-down first season, but he’s a stud. At 6’1” tall, he has the size and the speed to burn cornerbacks and beat them for jump balls. So far this season, he’s got 44 receptions for 558 yards and only two scores. He hasn’t really established chemistry with Daniels, his former high school teammate. He has big play potential written all over him and he’ll be someone to watch come Saturday.
Standing at 6’4”, junior Michael Pittman Jr. has been nearly impossible to stop this season. Although he’s only caught 27 passes this season, he’s turned that into 561 yards and 6 touchdowns. He averages 20.1 yards per reception and can catch the football over any defender. While Pittman doesn’t possess breakaway speed, he has the most reliable hands of this Southern Cal’s receiving corps. Sophomore wideout Tyler Vaughn leads Southern Cal with 45 receptions and has 535 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season. All five of those scores have been at home, though.
This isn’t a gargantuan test for the Bruin defense, but they’ll need to be on their toes on Saturday. Southern Cal has enough weapons offensively to keep UCLA off balance. It will be imperative that the Bruins watch out for the speed of Southern Cal on the outside of the field.
Go Bruins! Beat $c!