Southern Cal's offense has come a long way from the group that struggled to put away Hawaii and Boston College earlier in the year and was essentially shut out offensively by Washington State (a defense that gives up 32 points per game).
Whether that was talent finally clicking or a change in play-calling post-Kiffen is up for debate, but they now rank 61st in scoring offense at 29.8 points per game (ahead of just Utah, Colorado and Cal in the Pac-12) and 71st in total offense at 398.8 yards per game (10th in the Pac-12).
The late start has held back the offense in overall totals quite a bit, as they've scored 47, 20, 62, 31 and 19 points over their current 5 game winning streak.
They rank 60th in rushing offense at 177 yards per game and 72nd in passing offense at 221.8 yards per game, so it's a balanced attack out of a primarily pro-style offense. Lots of under center action, which means lots of base defense for UCLA.
Let's take a look at the running game and the passing game of Southern Cal individually.
The Trojans average 4.7 yards per carry, which is a more than respectable number, and have scored 26 rushing touchdowns thus far. They do give up negative plays, as they are 77th in tackles for loss allowed (6.25 per game).
Who will get the carries is kind of anyone's guess. This season Tre Madden, Javorius Allen, Justin Davis, Ty Isaac and Silas Redd all have 30 carries and average near or above 5 yards per carry. The thing holding down their rushing attack from being one of the better groups in the conference is the total immobility of their quarterback.
Madden is the leader of the group overall (688 yards on 135 carries), Allen has gotten more and more run as the year has gone on (576 yards and 11 TDs on just 88 carries) and is a very talented young back. Davis and Redd both have around 350 yards, with Redd having the lowest yards per carry of the group. That can be partially attributed to his injury that has held him to just 5 games this season (Davis has also played just 7 games).
The blockers for that group of running back consist of fullbacks Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner (yes, there are teams that still use fullbacks as a frequent part of their offense) and a group of lineman that gets older from left to right. The starters from last week were a redshirt freshman at left tackle in Chad Wheeler, a true sophomore at left guard in Max Tuerk, a junior center in Marcus Martin, a junior at right guard in Aundrey Walker and a redshirt senior at right tackle in Kevin Graf.
All these guys were highly recruited (except their left tackle randomly, who was an injured guy that fell off the map), all of these guys are talented and capable of winning battles up front. The UCLA front seven will have chances to make plays, but have to be ready to go on every snap.
The Trojans have allowed 27 sacks (78th in the NCAA, 8th in Pac-12), so it is very possible and necessary to get pressure on the statue-esque Cody Kessler.
Kessler has improved a lot, looking very poised in the pocket in their last few games, but still has very underwhelming stats on paper. He's completed 65% of his passes (197 of 303) and has thrown for 2449 yards and 15 touchdowns against 9 interceptions.
He's got an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent to target on offense, I feel like the issues of depth for Southern Cal are much more on both of the lines than they are at the skill positions.
The targets that Kessler have include Nelson Agholor (shockingly, the Trojans leading receiver), All-American and one of the best WRs in the country in Marqise Lee, future-NFL tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randal Telfair, former elite recruits in Victor Blackwell and Darreus Rogers and any member of that collection of running backs and fullbacks can catch the ball too.
It's a talented, yet error prone unit. They drop the ball more than UCLA's less talented receiving threats do, and more than any other group in the country that I can recall (there aren't a ton of stats for that available).
Anyone one of those players can break a big play, so UCLA's pass rush and secondary need to be on point.
Overall, Southern Cal has one of the more underachieving offenses in the country, how this collection of talent isn't scoring 40 points a game is beyond me. I'd place it primarily on their super conservative approach to protect the thin front lines on both sides of the ball and horrific play early in the season.
The talent of UCLA's defense is comparable across the board, so there is no excuse for the Bruins not getting their second win in a row over the Trojans and finishing the season with two straight wins to meet most of the expectations on the year.
Until tomorrow, Go Bruins, Beat $C.