The one thing which has been constant in this rivalry during the Jim Mora era has been change, the change of USC head coaches, that is. The Bruins will go up against the fourth Trojan coach in four years today as interim USC head coach Clay Helton tries to make his case to keep the job permanently.
Of course, this is Helton's second stint as interim coach of the Trojans. He took over as interim coach following the resignation of interim coach Ed Orgeron who took over after Lane Kiffin was fired and left on the tarmac at LAX in 2013.
In addition to serving as interim head coach, Helton is still the Trojans offensive coordinator.
But, perhaps, the biggest liability to Helton's hopes is his offensive line coach. Now, because Helton is the interim head coach, calling Bob Connolly Helton's offensive line coach may be a bit of a misnomer since Helton isn't responsible for hiring him. But, in February, I wrote that I would be shocked if USC's offensive line were one of the tops in college football this season. Sure enough, the Trojans are ranked 102nd in the nation in tackles for loss allowed and 103rd in sacks allowed. They are also only ranked 64th in the nation in rushing offense. These stats would seem to indicate that the Trojans' line is not up to par. As gbruin is fond of writing: Line wins games.
Justin Wilcox is in his second season as the USC Defensive Coordinator. The hallmark of the Trojans' defense this season has been their ability to stop the run. They are ranked 34th in rushing defense. At the same time, they have allowed the 22nd most passing yards in college football. That makes some sense when you consider the fact that the Trojans' defensive line and one of the inside linebackers are seniors while the secondary and other linebackers are all underclassmen.
Turning to special teams, redshirt junior Alex Wood is the USC placekicker. Wood has made 10 of 14 field goals attempts and has missed 3 attempts from between 30 and 39 yards. His season long is only 43 yards. So, look for the Trojans to potentially go for it if a field goal would be greater than 30 yards.
Redshirt senior Kris Albarado will handle the punting duties for the Trojans. While Albarado's yards per punt is 41.4, only three of his punts have been touchbacks while 22 have been fair catches. This should allow UCLA to try to gain some yards whenever USC punts.
Adoree Jackson is USC's punt returner and primary kickoff returner. Jackson is averaging 9.7 return yards per punt with one touchdown and he is averaging 23.9 return yards per kickoff. Junior Justin Davis is the Trojan with the most kickoff returns behind Jackson. He is averaging 24.3 return yards per kickoff on six returns. The Bruin punting team will need to make sure they contain Jackson and keep him from taking one to the house.
Keys To The Game
1. Get to the QB: The Bruins need to attack on defense and put Cody Kessler on the ground. They should be able to do this considering that Trojans have given up 30 sacks through their first 11 games.
2. Attack the Trojan secondary: Josh Rosen needs to exploit the Trojans' weak pass defense.
3. Take some risks on fourth down: Let's face it. The Bruins' punting game is weak. Adoree Jackson is dangerous. If the Bruins are around midfield, Jim Mora needs to shed the NFL mentality and go for it more frequently than we've seen. If he does and is successful, it will lead to points for the Bruins. If he does and isn't successful, the Bruins will probably be able to get back on the field quicker due to the better field position the Trojans will have.
Go Bruins!!! Beat SC!!! We own this town!!!