It is Beat Southern Cal week for the UCLA Bruins football team and the general status of the Trojans offense hasn't changed from years past.
They are as talented as any team in the country across the board. The UCLA Bruins defense will need to play at a very high level to stop Southern Cal from scoring points and racking up a lot of yards on the ground and through the air on Saturday.
The Trojans score a lot of points, ranking 24th nationally at over 35 points per contest against FBS opponents and 4th in the Pac-12.
They rake up a lot of yards, at 458 per game, 28th nationally and 6th in the Pac-12 (there are a lot of good offenses in this conference).
They are efficient in the red zone, ranking 29th nationally and 4th in the Pac-12.
They are running nearly 10 more plays per game then the 2013 Southern Cal offense ran, with over 77 per game, ranking 39th nationally compared to just over 68 in 2013.
Despite running more plays per game, the yards per play for Southern Cal has remained at an impressive 5.9, which is 34th nationally and 3rd in the Pac-12 (I would probably consider them to be in a tie for 2nd because of what amounts to a dead heat for 2nd in the Pac-12 with UCLA's offense at 6.0 yard per play).
They convert 3rd downs as well as anyone in the country at nearly 46%, good for 20th in the NCAA and 2nd to only Oregon in the Pac-12.
The passing offense of Southern Cal has been pretty illustrious in 2014.
The completion percentage is 3rd in the country at almost 70%.
19th in passing yards per game, 5th in the Pac-12.
14th in passing yards per attempt, 2nd in the Pac-12
A lot of that rests on the fact that every team the Trojans have played is less talented then Southern Cal in the WR vs. Secondary battle.
But redshirt junior Cody Kessler deserves some acclaim as well. No one is going to look at Kessler and see the physical talent of Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston (hate typing that, but his talent is undeniable) or Brett Hundley. But if anything, that makes Kessler's success all the more impressive.
He's thrown 29 touchdowns passes to just 3 interceptions in 2014, while completing 70% of his passes and throwing for nearly 3000 yards in 339 attempts. He's played his way into being a draft-able quarterback next season, which is miles away from the player I watched last season.
Part of that is that he is getting sacked over 2% less than he was last season (if you don't think that is a lot, the difference in sack percentage for 2% is the difference between Alabama at #10 and Georgia at #40).
Part of that is improved talent around him, I'll get to that later.
Part of that is Kessler looking far more poised in the pocket and having a simplified offensive scheme that takes advantage of his personal talents and the talents of the players around him. Getting pressure on the Trojan QB will be key.
Where there used to be a jumble of running backs with no clear layout of which would be getting the carries week-to-week, there is now one workhorse and one complimentary back for Southern Cal.
That workhorse is Javorius Allen (6'1", 220 pound redshirt junior). He's put up 1184 yards on 217 carries for 5.5 yards per carry while scoring 8 touchdowns. He also has added 32 receptions for 383 yards and 1 touchdown.
He's easily the front runner for the 1st team All Pac-12 spot at running back at this point in the season.
The complimentary back is Justin Davis (6'1", 195 pound sophomore). I actually prefer Davis to Allen as a runner, but that is a minority opinion and he has been less productive in 2014 averaging 4.5 yards per carry on his 97 touches thus far (432 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns).
That'll be it in the backfield for the Trojans. Kessler essentially never runs and if he does tuck it, I think you count that as a win on defense. You might see a carry or target in the passing game for fullback Soma Vainuku or maybe a Jet Sweep for one of the WRs, but expect Allen to get around 20 carries and Davis to get between 5 and 10 depending on how the run game is working.
For how good Allen has been, the Trojans have a really mediocre overall rushing attack, ranking 77th in yards per carry (that does count Kessler negative 112 yards from mostly sacks though) and just 64th in overall rushing yards per game.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Nelson Agohlor, JuJu Smith, George Farmer, Darreus Rogers, Randall Telfer, Bryce Dixon, Adoree' Jackson and the combination of Javorius Allen and Justin Davis in the backfield.
That group might be the best in the NCAA. I would personally put them behind Texas A&M and Alabama, but there is a debate to be made.
Good news, UCLA's defense made the most talented group of WRs they have faced in 2014 (Arizona's group) look exceptionally mediocre.
Bad news, the Trojans are better than Arizona's WRs and also have two future NFL TEs.
Agohlor is the star, putting up 1079 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season on 82 receptions. He is a junior, but I would expect this to be the last time UCLA will face Agohlor as he will be a challenger for a 1st round NFL Draft pick.
Farmer and Rogers seem to alternate productive games, each has over 200 yards, a few touchdowns and over 15 receptions.
Freshman JuJu Smith has taken a hold on the 2nd WR spot, with 531 yards and 5 touchdowns in his debut season.
The TE combination of Telfer and Dixon has combined for around 300 yards and 4 TDs. They'll be a test for Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks in coverage and Telfer is a very talented blocker as well.
Keep an eye on another true freshman in Adoree' Jackson as well. He's been limited on offense due to the Trojans issues in the secondary with depth, but all it takes is one play on offense and Jackson can take a bubble screen 80 yards for a TD.
Fabian Moreau, Anthony Jefferson, Ishmael Adams, Jaleel Wadood, Tahaan Goodman, Priest WIllis and Marcus Rios will need to be on their A-game to contain these skill position players.
RT: Zach Banner, redshirt sophomore, 6'9", 350 pounds
RG: Viane Talamaivao, freshman, 6'3", 330 pounds, started the season at center.
C: Max Tuerk, junior, 6'6", 285 pounds
LG: Khaliel Rodgers, redshirt freshman, 6'3", 315 pounds
LT: Toa Lobendahn, freshman, 6'3", 280 pounds
Redshirt senior Nathan Gurtler (6'5", 270 pounds) also saw playing time last week. This is a young offensive line mostly due to injuries and other issues to players like redshirt sophomore Chad Wheeler, freshman behemoth Damien Mama, Aundrey Walker and others.
It is still a talented unit that has held up well in protecting Kessler for the most part.
This is an area that the UCLA defensive front seven will have an advantage though. There are plays to be made against this offensive line, players just need to seize the moment like Anthony Barr, Cassius Marsh and others have in the past two seasons.
Until Saturday, Beat Southern Cal and Go Bruins!