Prediction: USC 23, UCLA 20
Chip Kelly’s first season in Westwood has not gone the way many fans would have hoped, but Saturday will give the Bruins’ coach a chance to make up for all of it.
UCLA is not bowl-eligible with its 2-8 record, but USC is at 5-5, meaning the Bruins get to play spoiler in a game that the Trojans will not want to lose considering they are slated to face No. 3 Notre Dame next week.
Should USC lose both of those games, they will become ineligible for a bowl.
However, as exciting as that sounds, I don’t think UCLA will be able to derail its crosstown rival’s season. And it is not because I think the Trojans are better, but rather the fact that the Bruins have let me down each time they’ve given me a reason to be excited this season.
The loss to Utah on Oct. 26, when UCLA came out flat, is a good reference for why I don’t like the Bruins’ chances this weekend. Following two straight wins, UCLA had a chance – in front of its home crowd – to take control of the Pac-12 South, but instead laid an egg that virtually ended its season.
All of the mistakes and frustration in the the past two weeks have not given me a reason to feel any better, either.
I would love to see the Bruins pull this off as much as the next guy, but something inside continues to tell me not to get my hopes up.
Football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 28, USC 24
Last year, I witnessed what it’s like for a football team to play a rivalry game for a lame-duck coach.
UCLA lost 28-23 to USC and Jim Mora was fired the next day.
If UCLA wins Saturday, then USC’s buses might just leave coach Clay Helton in Pasadena.
The combination of redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley and redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson gives the Bruins a legitimate multifaceted offense for the first time in at least five years.
And with graduate transfer Wilton Speight fully taking the reins at quarterback, UCLA finally has a quarterback who can run coach Chip Kelly’s offense effectively. I’m sure Speight will find Wilson open over the middle throughout the entire game – Jordan Lasley was UCLA’s only threatening skill position player last year and he put up 204 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The game comes down to how USC freshman quarterback JT Daniels fares in his first taste of the Rose Bowl.
He threw for an average of 5.29 yards per pass attempt against Cal. Granted, the Bears have a top-tier defense, but that game was at home against a team the Trojans had beaten 13 straight times. I don’t think Daniels will be able to navigate through a heavily fired-up UCLA crowd advantage.
If the Bruins can hold running back Aca’Cedric Ware to around 150 total yards, I believe Daniels will make the freshman mistakes that cement the upset.
Then I’ll keep my eye posted for a man dressed in USC gear, looking for a ride in Lot H of the Rose Bowl parking lot.
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: USC 31, UCLA 27
It takes a lot for me to pick against UCLA – if you’ve been keeping up with these gameday predictions this season, you know I’m usually the lone writer picking the Bruins.
But I can’t deny how much USC has riding on this game.
Clay Helton could be coaching for his job. JT Daniels has been under fire. The Trojans are going to lose to No. 3 Notre Dame next week, which means Saturday will be USC’s final shot to clinch a bowl appearance.
For as inconsistent as the Trojans have been this year, I’m still confident they’ll pull out a win with their backs against the wall. If their star-studded and fundamentally sound defense can keep redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley in check like Arizona State did last week, they can make graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight the focal point for the Bruins’ offense.
Speight had a season-high 335 yards and two touchdowns against the Sun Devils on Saturday, but the Bruins still lost. When UCLA’s offense becomes one-dimensional – like it did when Kelley picked up just 79 yards against Arizona State – Speight puts up big stats but is unable to win.
The deciding factor Saturday is ultimately going to be the Bruins’ secondary, which could either allow Daniels to throw all over them, or it could force him to revert back to his turnover-prone ways.
Assistant Opinion editor
Prediction: UCLA 28, USC 0
Based on years of watching Super Bowl commercials, I am confident that UCLA will annihilate USC this Saturday.
After all, Trojans are hardly common on earth today, having long fallen along with Greece thousands of years ago. Brown bears in comparison, like Joe Bruin, continue to roam the earth to this day. The Bruins will annihilate USC’s Trojans on Saturday, much like the test of time annihilated the originals. Already now, the Bruin bear, hero of UCLA, has dirtied his coat with the red and yellow blood of naive Trojans after a failed attempt to hurt our valiant mascot.
If history isn’t proof enough, look instead to their uniforms. USC’s players wear red, while UCLA’s wear blue, and everyone knows the color blue generates far less drag, meaning UCLA’s players will be faster on the field, giving them a more certain chance at victory.
Beating USC won’t undo UCLA’s bad season – but it will show everyone just which football team is LA’s best.