Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nothing Needs to be Said

Here are some thoughts on the Bruins:

  • The Bruin offense has struggled most of the year (9th in the conference in scoring offense and total offense)

  • Injuries have really hurt UCLA this year and none more so than RB Khalil Bell. Since Bell was hurt in the 1st quarter of the WSU game, UCLA has averaged only 269 yds and 17.5 points (over 4 games)

  • The Bruins have been more successful when Pat Cowan has been healthy enough to play at quarterback, averaging 27 points and 366 yards per game (Washington, WSU, Cal, Arizona)

  • It will be very difficult for the Bruins to run consistently on the Trojans. Bruins will try and make some plays in the passing game and likely attempt at least 1 trick play. Bruins have been held under 3 yards a carry 4 times this year (BYU, Utah, Oregon St and ND) and under 4 yards a carry another 4 times (WSU, AZ, ASU and Oregon)

  • I expect Cowan to start this game and give the Bruins a bit of a spark. As mentioned above, UCLA just plays better with Cowan at the helm

  • Cowan or no Cowan, UCLA will struggle to run the ball and protect the passer. I like the match up of the USC DL vs UCLA OL

  • Last year the Trojans completely shut down the Bruins and still lost...the big question is what can the USC offense do this year?

  • The UCLA defense is very formidable again this year. They run a very aggressive scheme with tons of blitzing

  • It continues to work for the Bruins as they are ranked 3rd in the conference in run defense, 2nd in tackles for loss and 4th in scoring defense

  • The Bruins get to the quarterback very well and use blitzing linebackers to create negative plays in the running game. However, UCLA has given up its share of big plays this year...both on the ground and through the air

  • So why will this year be different for the Trojan offense? Here are the Top 10 reasons to be optimistic:
  1. USC can game plan against what the Bruins did last year (which by the way is very similar to what Stanford did this year)
  2. Bruins had 2 weeks to prepare last year, 1 week this year (Trojans have 9 days this year vs 1 week last year)
  3. Last year the Trojans were coming off 3 huge back to back to back victories over Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame. 2 games in last 21 days this year
  4. Healthy and productive fullback this year in Havilli vs no fullback last year. Big impact on the running (and short passing) game
  5. Depleted running backs last year (only true frosh Gable healthy). This year the Trojans have CW, McKnight and Stafon
  6. Fred Davis was not a part of the offense last year due to Jarrett and Smith...this year he is the leading receiver. A prominent TE makes it more difficult for safeties and linebackers to run blitz without penalty
  7. Last year the Bruins had 2 dominant defensive ends (Hickman and Davis) and 2 outstanding defensive tackles (Brown and Harwell). This year Hickman is gone and Harwell is injured. Big difference
  8. No game breaking speed last year for the Trojans. Rojo and McKnight have the ability to make aggressive defenses pay this year
  9. Booty had a bad ankle last year which limited his mobility. This year he is healthy...expect some roll outs
  10. Coliseum. Bruins are a much different team on the road, particularly defensively. At home they are allowing 19pts per game and on the road they are allowing 27 pts per game

  • I think USC will use the running backs, fullback and tight end in the passing game (or at least as decoys) to keep the UCLA linebackers and safeties honest. If USC is successful at this (thus slowing down the blitz)...the play book can open up

  • UCLA will counter by playing tight man to man (including putting SS Horton on Fred Davis). I like the match up of our OL run blocking against the Bruins...particularly running right at them. USC will also use a reverse to Rojo to slow down the pursuit

  • Tons of play action from Booty...much like ASU game. I am hopeful the Trojans can make some big plays

  • This is a huge game for Booty and Sark...if the offense clicks, the Trojans roll

  • Special teams can be a factor in this game...on both sides. UCLA has returned 3 kickoffs for TDs this year and Austin is a dangerous punt returner. USC will counter with Rojo and McKnight

  • Turnovers are always critical, particularly in rivalry games

Another huge game with the Bruins with the Rose Bowl hanging in the balance. Can't wait until Saturday. See you at the Coliseum.

Fight On!

Friday, November 09, 2007


Well the match up with the Cal Bears is finally here although it is not the matchup everyone was anticipating early in the season. As opposed to two highly ranked teams competing for a BCS Championship berth, there are two teams with 5 Pac 10 losses between them. The national media may no longer be interested in this game, but the Trojans have a ton to play for.

If USC can continue to win games, the Trojans could still tie for the Pac 10 championship and potentially receive an at large BCS bid. Cal is a very talented team that has hit a rough patch, but the Bears are a significantly better team at home.

Thoughts on USC this Week

  • The Trojan defense is playing as well as any time during the Pete Carroll era. Cal is very explosive, so a great defensive effort is critical

  • Cal has only given up 8 sacks this year. Part of that is due to a solid OL, but a larger part is due to opposing teams reluctance to blitz and leave the talented trio of Cal wide receivers in the secondary...I think USC will scheme to limit big play opportunities from the Cal WR

  • Cal has really struggled offensively since QB Nate Longshore injured his ankle late in the Oregon game. Longshore's mobility has really suffered and he appears hesitant to step into throws. Back up Kevin Riley could see the field and he is a mobile player with a lot of upside

  • Cal has scored 28, 21, 20 and 20 points in their last 4 games vs 45, 34, 42, 45 and 31 in their first 5 games

  • One of the reasons Cal has struggled is that the Bears have turned the ball over 12 times in their last 4 games vs only 4 times in their first 5 games

  • Another reason for the reduced output is a significant decline in the running game. In the first 5 games, Cal averaged 200 yds per game and 5.7 yds per carry. In the last 4 games, Cal averaged 125 yds per game and 3.7 yds per carry

  • Look for USC to come out and shut down the run and force Longshore to make the reads against zone coverage. Given Longshore's lack of mobility, Pete will definitely mix in some blitzes, but they will probably be of the zone blitz or MLB blitz variety

  • I expect USC to "bracket" Desean Jackson with a LB underneath and a safety over the top. Cal will likely counter with some plays to their talented tight end (wearing #19 in honor of Mario Danelo)

  • I would not be surprised to see USC put pressure on Longshore with the front 4. In obvious passing situations, the Trojans have 4 legitimate pass rushers in the game (Sed, Lojack, Kyle Moore and Everson Griffin). If the front four gets pressure, USC should be in good shape

  • On the other side of the ball, Cal has struggled to consistently stop the run and rush the passer

  • Cal is 5th in the conference against the run; 6th against the pass; 6th in scoring defense and last in sacks

  • I think the Trojans are really going to try and establish the running game this week. CW had his best game last week and I think the running game my break out. Stafon is getting healthy and the OL is in good shape with the exception of Baker. Maybe even a run out of the shotgun

  • Given Cal's lack of pass russ and Booty's historical issues with pressure, it would not be surprising to see Cal blitz often. We finally saw a very successful middle screen last week (TD to CW)...hopefully USC will be ready to counter the blitz

  • Patrick Turner has made some big catches the last few weeks...with his size, he is a difficult player to defend. This along with the emergence of Vidal really makes it difficult to bracket Fred Davis....maybe this is the week the offense gels

Berkeley is a tough place to win...the Trojans exercised some demons there in 2005, but the Bears will be ready tomorrow. With rain in the forecast, it will be critical to get off to a good start and take the crowd out of the game. The Trojans can build some real momentum with a win tomorrow...let's hope USC can make it happen. See you tomorrow in Berkeley.

Fight On!