No. 10 USC (9-2, 6-2) closes out the 2011 campaign against crosstown rival UCLA (6-5, 5-3) after an emotional 38-35 victory over then No. 4 Oregon. The Trojans have defeated the Bruins in 11 of the last 12 meetings, and UCLA has not won at the LA Coliseum since 1997.
Can Robert Woods make a strong push for the Biletnikoff award?
Woods stormed out of the gate at a blistering pace, recording 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener. The sophomore wide out continued his pace for much of the season, but his production has dropped off considerably the last two weeks due to injury. He recorded two catches for five yards against Washington, and reeled in seven catches for only 53 yards at Oregon. Woods is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff award, given to the nation’s best receiver, and will need to turn in an impressive performance to beat out Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) and Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma).
Which running game will prove to be more productive?
For UCLA, Johnathan Franklin ran for a season high 162 yards on 15 carries against Colorado last week. The junior tailback averages 6.1 yards per carry on the year, and he is tough to bring down. A year ago, Franklin ran for 109 yards on 13 carries against a struggling USC defense. Meanwhile, the Trojans ran for 139 yards against a stout Oregon defense last week behind the strength of Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler. The Bruins have been horrific in trying to stop the run. They allow an average of 180.8 yards per game (84th nationally). In contrast, the Trojans allow 110.3 yards per game on the ground (15th nationally).
Will UCLA sport an aerial attack?
For the majority of the season, UCLA has focused on running the ball and pounding games out on the ground. However, USC presents a formidable front line, and UCLA might be forced to throw more often than they are used to. Junior quarterback Kevin Prince showed signs of life last week against Colorado. He threw four touchdowns as he completed 15 of his 19 passes for 225 yards. The Trojans will have all hands on deck in the secondary, and depth will not be an issue.
Is Saturday Matt Barkley’s final game at USC?
Outside of a shaky performance at Arizona State, junior quarterback Matt Barkley has been phenomenal in 2011. He has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3105 yards for 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The third-year starter will put the final touches on his best year to date on Saturday, but it might also be the final time he suits up in a Trojan uniform. Barkley has improved his draft stock dramatically over the last few weeks, and some pundits believe he could be a top five pick in April’s NFL draft if he decides to leave one year early. Junior offfensive tackle Matt Kalil, a projected top five pick himself, told the Los Angeles Times he believes he and Barkley will either stay or leave as a package deal. If both come back, USC would likely be ranked very highly to begin the 2012 season.