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UCLA Football at USC: Bruins Nation's Q&A with Conquest Chronicles

As if the rivalry and bragging rights and recruiting credibility didn't already carry enough weight, this time there's a little thing like the Pac-12 South division title and a spot in the Conference Championship game on the line.

Containing USC's overlooked QB Cody Kessler will be key for the Bruins defense on Saturday.
Containing USC's overlooked QB Cody Kessler will be key for the Bruins defense on Saturday.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Each week during the Pac-12 season, we have hooked up with our fellow SB Nation sites across the conference. Now we saved the best, or worst, for last. Oo the final weekend of the regular season, with everything on the line, we'll talk with our rivals at Southern Cal. Julian Lopez from the SB Nation site Conquest Chronicles was good enough to share his time and thoughts on a chaotic season, an underrated QB, and the current state to the UCLA-USC rivalry.


Bruins Nation: Talk about ups and downs...SC was a post-sanction preseason Top 10 and Pac-12 South favorite and QB Cody Kessler was in the Heisman talk. Then the Trojans had a rough first 5 games, then had the unfortunate issues with Coach Sarkisian, and suffered some key injuries. It's been a crazy ride, but here you are at the end with a game for the Pac-12 South title like everyone predicted at the start. How did the coaching staff keep this team together and on track through such a chaotic season?

Conquest Chronicles: It seems as if this is 2013 all over again except this time, USC had two coaches instead of three two years ago. The coaching staff kept this team together because they knew that they could still win the division and the players bought into Helton's philosophy. You look back at the early part of the season and USC really wasn't playing that bad before Sarkisian's departure. It seems that USC is becoming accustom to chaos and that is something that will have to change with the new coach.


BN: Kessler has had an excellent season with nearly 3,000 yards and 70% completions with 25 TDs to 6 INTs so far, despite facing a lot of pressure and sacks along the way. Pretty much every school would take those sort of numbers. Do you think the outside issues have overshadowed his performance this year and should he have gotten more credit for the year that he's had. Where do you rank Kessler among the draft eligible quarterbacks?

CC: Cody Kessler has been one of the most successful quarterbacks at USC in terms of numbers-wise. He has been so efficient in his time with USC. You look at his numbers from this year and he isn't getting as much credit as he should be. However, this has been the story of Kessler's career as outside issues have overshadowed his career. Kessler ranks probably in the 3rd or 4th round of draft eligible quarterbacks. His arm strength needs to improve and unfortunately, I see Kessler as a career backup in the NFL>


BN: Even with Kessler at QB, Coach Helton seems to have simplified the offensive approach lately and focused more on a consistent run game. That might work well this weekend as the Bruins have looked pretty vulnerable against the run this season. If you were game planning for Saturday, would you take advantage of that run game or rely on your star QB's arm and his dangerous receivers?

CC: Balanced offense always has worked well for the Trojans. USC has so much talent on offense that they need to spread the ball around (both on the run and the pass). If I were the coaches at USC, I would run the ball more against UCLA and run play action passes that will give Smith-Schuster, Mitchell, and more those one-on-one battles that they can win.


BN: Despite having amazing talents like Su'a Cravens on the field, defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox has come under some fire this year for his unit and especially after Oregon passed for over 400 yards against the Trojans last week. Who needs to step up for defense to slow down the Bruins passing attack?

CC: Boy did the defense look terrible against Oregon. Justin Wilcox's days at USC are most likely over once the season ends. USC needs to blitz a lot against UCLA and pressure Rosen because as we have seen this year, once you rattle Rosen a little, his timing is off. The secondary as a whole needs to have a big day on Saturday.


BN: UCLA and USC have had some pretty epic matchups in the past with the Rose Bowl on the line, but this weekend's game is only for a chance to play an ostensibly bigger game the following week. Do you think the move to two divisions has hurt the city rivalry or is the rivalry big enough to overcome the conference realignment.

CC: The rivalry is big enough to overcome the conference realignment. Basically since the division realignment a few years ago, the Pac-12 South has come down to the wire and most of the cases, the USC-UCLA game gives the South the division winner.


Our sincere thanks to Julian and the crew at Conquest Chronicles. Check out their site for all the best news and analysis on Southern Cal sports, and you can follow them on twitter at @CChroniclesSBN

A quick note to all my BN peeps, I know it's rivalry week and no, we aren't big fans of the school across town, but like every other conference site this season, CC was good enough to share their time with us here and so I expect the comments below to be respectful of that.

Go Bruins!