No. 24 USC Football Goes To No. 11 UCLA|
Nov. 16, 2014
Steve Sarkisian and UCLA head coach Jim Mora have relatives with degrees from the rival school. Both teams are well-rested, as USC had a few extra days off after its home win last Thursday over California, while UCLA is coming off a bye following its road win at Washington. USC features a number of players in the running for post-season awards. QB Cody Kessler, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist who is among the nation's leaders in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes, completions and passing yards, is having the most efficient and accurate season of any Trojan quarterback ever (he has hit 70% of his aerials with 29 TDs and just 3 picks). Doak Walker Award candidate TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner in 2014 with 8 century yardage outings this season, continues to top the Pac-12 in rushing and all-purpose yards (he's on pace to be the first Trojan to lead the conference in rushing since 1989). Dual threat WR Nelson Agholor, with a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns and coming off a 16-catch performance versus California as well as a school-record pair of 200-yard receiving games, is in the national Top 20 in receptions, receiving yards, punt returns and all-purpose yards. Dominant All-American DE Leonard Williams is a 2014 Lombardi and Bednarik semifinalist, ILB Hayes Pullard is Troy's tackle leader for a third season (he has 350-plus career stops) and 2013 Freshman All-American S-turned-OLB Su'a Cravens makes plays all over the field (he tops the Trojans in interceptions and tackles for a loss). USC has had to rely on numerous true freshmen because of depth issues (11 have played significantly, including 8 who have posted 40 starts) and several are candidates for Freshman All-American honors: CB-WR-RET Adoree' Jackson (he has played 3 ways in 5 games this year and is among the nation's leading kickoff returners), WR JuJu Smith (he has 42 receptions in 2014 all before his 18th birthday, which he celebrates on Saturday), OG-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao. No more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans have suited up for any game in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations. USC hopes for another fast start this week (it has outscored foes by 107 points in the first quarter), as well as a stronger finish (it has lost twice this year in the final seconds). USC's offense is highly ranked in various passing categories as well as on third and fourth down conversions, while its defense is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense (the Trojans have yet to allow an opponent to score on its opening possession this season). UCLA, riding a 4-game winning streak, has a balanced offense that is 17th in the nation in total offense. QB Brett Hundley, equally effective throwing (71 career TD passes) and running, leads the country in completion percentage (72.1%) and is also in the Top 20 in passing efficiency and total offense. RB Paul Perkins has run for 1,000-plus yards to rank 16th nationally in that category. WRs Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller are UCLA's primary pass catchers, with a combined 103 catches this year. LBs Eric Kendricks, the nation's No. 5 tackler who is having his third 100-tackle season, and Myles Jack, who doubles as a running back, anchor the Bruin defense. DB Ishmael Adams has 2 TDs on interceptions and 1 on a kickoff return in 2014.