Monday, November 27, 2006

Big Time Game with the Bruins

WOW! What a great day/night at the Coliseum....beating the Irish for the 5th straight time is an unbelievable accomplishment. The Trojans have really progressed as a team and are playing their best football of the year. On to the Bruins!

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the ND tailgate took a tremendous effort from several people including the Hoovers, Goyans, Dan Cherrie, Aaron Wooler and Brendan Grubbs. These folks had to get up ridiculously early to help secure the spot. This week we will be set up in Lot H at the Rose Bowl....same lot as previous years. Here is a map:

There will be breakfast for the early arrivers, and a taco bar for an early lunch pre-game. ACC Championship game will be on the TV. We will also set up post game and watch second half of SEC Championship (Go Hogs!) as well as the Big 12 Championship (Go Big Red!)

Bruin Preview

  • I think the Bruins are a tougher matchup for the Trojans than the Irish....particularly USC's offense vs UCLA's defense
  • UCLA has been outstanding this year at defending the run, ranked 1st in the conference and 14th nationally
  • In addition, the Bruins are ranked 1st in the conference in sacks (4th nationally)....teams that can stop the run and pressure the QB can be extremely effective on defense
  • Just to add an exclamation point, UCLA leads the nation is 3rd down conversion defense, allowing only 27%....all this adds up to the Bruins being 2nd in the conference (behind the Trojans) in scoring defense at 18.7 points per game
  • This brings me to key #1 for the game...protect Booty. If the Trojans can protect Booty, USC should be able to do some damage to the Bruin secondary. Bruins are ranked 6th in the conference in pass efficiency defense, having given up 17 TD passes (2nd worst in the conference). Bruins are also ranked 7th in the conference (75th nationally) in passing yards allowed
  • UCLA has done a nice job of forcing turnovers. Former USC assistant (under Pete Carroll), Dwayne Walker is the UCLA D-Coordinator so you can bet he is preaching about the ball the way Pete does. UCLA ranks 3rd in the conference in turnovers forced per game at 2.27
  • Key #2.....protect the ball. If USC minimizes turnovers, the Trojans will avoid giving the suspect Bruin offense a short field. In addition, the Trojans need to protect the ball to extend drives and tire out the UCLA defense which does lack depth
  • Justin Hickman (#17) and Bruce Davis (#44) are #2 and #3 in the country in sacks. USC has faced several dangerous sack masters this year with some success (WSU, Nebraska, Oregon St). The SC O-Line will be a good matchup to watch
  • Before you get the idea that the Bruins are absolutely dominant on defense, let me throw out a couple of interesting stats. The Bruins only got 5 sacks in the 4 games they played against teams in the top 20 nationally at protecting the quarterback....Trojans are ranked 18th nationally at protecting the QB
  • If you analyze only the 9 common opponents shared by USC and UCLA, UCLA is giving up 20pts per game and USC is giving up 16 (UCLA is scoring 22 and USC is scoring 31)...USC is ranked 2nd in the conference in scoring (32.3 pts/game) behind Cal (32.4) and ahead of Oregon (31.3)
  • UW, Ore, WSU and Cal all put up 29pts or more (Cal and Ore scored 37 and 38) and Oregon, WSU and Cal all put over 400yds (WSU over 500yds) . USC is ranked 3rd in the conference in total yards per game, behind Oregon and Cal, but ahead of WSU
  • I think the Trojans will continue to utilize the downfield passing game we have seen the last 3 weeks. Expect to see more screens to slow down Hickman and Davis....also expect to see more running right at the UCLA DEs and not at the tackles. Don't be surprised to see Moody with a few carries
  • If the Trojans can protect the ball and convert some 3rd downs...I like their chances
  • Offensively, the Bruins have struggled a bit. UCLA ranks 7th in the conference in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense....they rank 6th in passing offense
  • Against the 9 common opponents, UCLA has scored 30 points only once (Stanford) and has been held under 20 points 3 times (UW, ND and WSU). Bruins have gained over 400 yards only once (Cal) and have been held under 300 yards 6 times (UW, AZ, Ore, ND, OSU and ASU)
  • Expect to see Pat Cowan as the starting QB...starter Drew Olson has been out since the 5th game with a strained knee. Olson could make an appearance
  • Cowan is completing 54% of his passes with 9TDs and 7 INTs in 5 starts. In those 5 starts the Bruins are averaging 21 points a game
  • Cowan is a gamer, has above average mobility (see Brady Quinn last week) and a strong arm. He has had success in recent weeks with the deep ball
  • RB Chis Markey is a nice back, averaging 4.9yds per carry, including a 70yd run against call. Markey may not be a game breaker, but he is solid....he is also leading the Bruins in receptions
  • UCLA has a good group of receives in Junior Taylor, Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell. All are utilized about the same with 20-25 catches each. All 3 have decent speed and can beat the Trojans deep
  • The UCLA OL does a nice job of protecting the QB, allowing only 17 sacks (Trojans have allowed 14), but have not been able to open up the running game (124 yds game and 3.8yds carry)
  • I think we will see a very similar defensive gameplan this week as we did against the Irish. I don't think the UCLA running game will scare the Trojans....expect a continuing mix of man and zone coverage in the secondary. One thing the Trojans will look to eliminate is the scrambling ability of Cowan. Given that Cowan (and Olson) are less talented than Quinn, you may see some more blitzes this week
  • Key #4 UCLA's offense has lacked consistency all has relied on the big play to score. If the Trojans can make the Bruins earn it in long drives, I think it will be a long day for UCLA

This is a huge game for the Trojans....significant in so many different ways. I hope the SC fans turn out in force and make the Rose Bowl a sea of Cardinal. Let's hope the Trojans can grind out another tough win on the road and next week we can talk about the Valley of the Sun!

Fight On!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bears Looking for Revenge

Work continues to keep me from blogging each week, but I skipped the Oregon blog and the Trojans won, so no harm done! Huge game this week against Cal....The Bears have made the Trojans their #1 rival and it is not even close. From the fans (go read the Cal message boards), to the players (see DeSean Jackson's comments in the press this week) all the way to the coaches, they view USC as THE GAME for Cal. Here are my thoughts for the game:

  • Cal is dynamic on offense...the Bears are ranked 1st in the conference in passing and scoring (35 pts/game), 2nd in total yards and 3rd in rushing offense
  • The Bears have 2 of the 5 best offensive players in the Pac 10 in DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Jackson is a very dangerous receiver and the best punt returner in the nation (4 TDs on punt returns)
  • QB Nate Longshore has been very solid for the Bears...he leads the conference in passing efficiency and has proven he can connect on the deep ball
  • Cal's offensive line has allowed the least number of sacks in the Pac impressive fact given that Longshore is not very mobile
  • Longshore has been known to throw the ball to the other team (an interception per every 28 attempts vs per 49 attempts for Booty)
  • SC's defense has looked much better of late....the Trojans are playing more man to man defense and putting pressure on the QB. I like the way the defense looked against the Ducks...if the Trojans corners/safeties play that well again, I like USC's chances
  • Let hope Lojack continues his hot steak...if USC gets pressure with the front 4, it will be a long day for Cal
  • Of course, the Trojans cannot get too aggressive because Cal has feasted on big plays to Jackson as well as WRs Hawkins and Jordan. SC has excelled at taking away the deep ball with Pete at the helm...will Cal be satisfied to dink and dunk like they did in 2003?
  • I am most concerned with the playmaking of Jackson and Lynch catching the ball out of the backfield against our aggressive LBs (stay at home Rey!)
  • Cal has tended to get off to very fast starts, outscoring the opposition 108-33 in the first quarter and 118-67 in the second quarter vs 45-16 and 92-29 for the Trojans. The Trojans need to withstand the initial burst of Cal...ensuring no turnovers is critical here
  • One thing that will make a difference is the crowd. I think a raucous USC crowd will make it tough on Cal and inspire the Trojans...a fast start from Cal may take the crowd out of the game
  • DeSean Jackson has put a ton of pressure on himself to perform in this game....I would not be surprised if he made a mistake at the wrong time (personal foul, catching a punt inside the 10, etc)
  • Defensively Cal has been disappointing. Despite returning 8 starters from a good squad last year, Cal is ranked 10th in pass defense, 7th in run defense and 9th in total defense
  • However, the Bears do have some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball (CB Hughes, LB Bishop)...they lead the Pac 10 in turnovers forced and thus have been able to hold opponents to 20 pts per game (4th in the conference)
  • In addition, Cal is 2nd in the conference in 3rd down defense, allowing only a 30% conversion rate. This will be a key matchup as USC is ranked 1st in the conference in 3rd down conversion offense (48%)
  • Cal's defense has lived off of turnovers...interception in particular. Cal has 20 interceptions to lead the conference by a wide margin (14 is next). In addition, Cal DB Hughes leads the nation with 8 picks. If (big IF) Booty can avoid the interceptions....things will be looking up for the Trojans
  • Cal has put decent pressure on the QB this year (20 sacks in 10 games vs 21 sacks in 9 games for the Trojan D), but nothing spectacular
  • Cal's defense this year reminds me a bit of USC's defense last year...dangerous, but vulnerable
  • I think there is a real mismatch between the WRs of USC and the secondary of Cal. Hughes may be the best corner in the country, but he can only cover one guy. Cal also starts a RS frosh at the other corner and 2 inexperienced safeties
  • I think the Trojans come out throwing and may keep throwing....particularly given the sketchy health status of Chauncey Washington. Dont be surprised in 15 of the first 20 plays are passes. Expect a lot of 3 Wide, Single Back formations
  • I also fully expect Fred Davis to be heavily involved in the offense. I think the Trojans have kept him under wraps the last two weeks on purpose...he is a weapon that has not been on tape in a few weeks
  • Having said all that about the pass, Cal is vulnerable to the run giving up 3.9 yds per carry (vs 2.9 for USC)
  • I hope the Trojans do not punt the ball to Jackson....just kick it out of bounds. This is where the Trojans' offense is key...USC needs to move the ball so that when (if?) they punt, they can kick it through the endzone. If SC needs to punt from deep in their own territory, the USC defense will be in a tough spot

This is a huge game...winner clinches a birth in the Rose Bowl. Cal will play much better than they did against Oregon. Be loud and support the Trojans as they grind out another tough win.

Fight On!