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!


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