UCLA vs. USC: How the Bruins and Trojans match up

UCLA vs. USC: How the Bruins and Trojans match up
USC's Javorius Allen, left, and UCLA's Paul Perkins are the top two rushers in the Pac-12 Conference this season. (Gina Ferrazi and Wally Skalij / LAT)

The Pac-12 Conference South title is in play for both teams as the crosstown rivals meet for the 84th time in a football series that dates to 1929. Gary Klein and Chris Foster examine the matchups and story lines:

Championship implications


In 2011, USC finished in first place in the Pac-12 South but was ineligible to participate in the conference championship game because of NCAA sanctions. UCLA went in the Trojans' place and lost to Oregon.

UCLA's formula for a third appearance in the title game is simple: Defeat the Trojans on Saturday, and Stanford next Friday.

USC needs help to gain its first conference championship-game berth. The Trojans must defeat UCLA, and Arizona State must lose at least one of its two remaining games against Washington State and Arizona.

Familiar faces

Several assistant coaches in Saturday's game have worked for the rival.

UCLA running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu played for the Trojans. He coached at USC from 2000 to 2003 under former coaches Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll, and from 2010 to 2012 under former coach Lane Kiffin.

Bruins defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin was a USC graduate assistant under Carroll in 2006 and 2007 and was on USC Coach Steve Sarkisian's staff at Washington from 2009 to 2011.

USC tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo was an intern in UCLA's football office in 2011 and the Bruins' tight ends coach in 2012.

Heroic return?

USC cornerback Josh Shaw makes his season debut after sitting out 10 games because of a suspension. The senior is no longer a team captain but he could play a role in the game at cornerback or on special teams.

Something to watch: USC, which contributed to the Shaw saga by posting a heroic story about him on its website in August, is not allowing Shaw to speak to the media.

What happens if he makes game-deciding plays in a Trojans victory?

Pivotal passers

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will try to become only the second Bruins quarterback to win three games in the rivalry.


Hundley has passed for 17 touchdowns, with four interceptions. The junior is ranked seventh nationally in passing efficiency. He also has rushed for 564 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last season against USC, Hundley completed 18 of 27 passes for 208 yards and rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-14 victory.

Hundley faces a defense that has intercepted 11 passes.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler has passed for 29 touchdowns, with three interceptions. The junior is ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency.

Kessler completed 17 of 28 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown against UCLA last season.

UCLA has nine interceptions.

Title chase

USC's Javorius Allen and UCLA's Paul Perkins rank first and second in the Pac-12 Conference in rushing yardage.

Allen, a junior from Florida, has rushed for 1,184 yards and eight touchdowns. He has averaged 118.4 yards per game. He also has 32 receptions, one for a touchdown.

USC has not had a conference rushing champion since Ricky Ervins, who ran for 1,395 yards in 1989.

Perkins, a third-year sophomore from Arizona, has rushed for 1,172 yards and six touchdowns. He has averaged 117.2 yards per game. He also has 24 receptions, two for touchdowns.

Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who rushed for 1,571 yards in 1995, was UCLA's last conference rushing champion.

Catching on

USC's Nelson Agholor is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to college football's top receiver. He has 82 receptions, 10 for touchdowns, and has 110 or more yards receiving in each of the last four games. He eclipsed 200 yards in the last two.

Freshman JuJu Smith has 42 catches, five for touchdowns. George Farmer, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell also have touchdown catches.

Tight end Bryce Dixon, who has three touchdown catches, was suspended from the Trojans' Nov. 13 victory over California for what Sarkisian described as an unspecified "student conduct issue." Dixon practiced this week but Sarkisian did not say whether he would play.

UCLA receiver Jordan Payton has 58 catches, seven for touchdowns.

Devin Fuller has 45 receptions and Eldridge Massington, Devin Lucien and Thomas Duarte each has at least 21 catches.

Penalty problems

There are 125 schools playing major college football. Only three have been called for more penalties than USC.

The Trojans are tied for 122nd, averaging 9.2 penalties per game. UCLA is tied for 107th, averaging 7.8.

Front and center

USC's offensive line includes two true freshmen — left tackle Toa Lobendahn and guard Viane Talamaivao — redshirt freshman guard Khaliel Rodgers, third-year sophomore tackle Zach Banner and junior center Max Tuerk. The Trojans have given up 22 sacks.

The Bruins' defensive front features sophomore lineman Kenny Clark and linebackers Eric Kendricks, a senior, and Myles Jack, a sophomore. UCLA has recorded 16 sacks.

UCLA's offensive line has given up 31 sacks, including 10 against Utah.

Junior lineman Leonard Williams, senior linebacker Hayes Pullard and sophomore linebacker Su'a Cravens anchor the Trojans' front seven. The Trojans have 24 sacks.

Two-way threats

UCLA's Jack and USC's Adoree' Jackson both start on defense, but they could play pivotal roles on offense too.

Jack has 26 carries as a running back, three for touchdowns.

Jackson, a cornerback, has six receptions as a receiver, one for a touchdown.

Special delivery

UCLA's Ishmael Adams has averaged 24.3 yards per kickoff return and has a touchdown. USC's Jackson has averaged 29.4 yards a return with a touchdown.

Agholor has returned two punts for touchdowns.

UCLA's Ka'imi Fairburn has made 14 of 18 field-goal attempts; USC's Andre Heidari is eight for 10.