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USC-UCLA: A look at how the teams match up

USC-UCLA: A look at how the teams match up
USC running back Aca'Cedric Ware takes the ball down to the California six-yard line last weekend in the Trojans' loss to California. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC (5-5, 4-4) at UCLA (2-8, 2-5)

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Rose Bowl. TV: Channel 11. Radio: 570, 1110, 1150, 97.3.

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Marquee matchup

USC offensive line vs. UCLA defensive front. Against poor rushing defenses, USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware has feasted this season, putting up 173 yards and 205 yards against Arizona and Oregon State, respectively. If that trend holds, Ware should be in for a big day Saturday against UCLA, but USC’s offensive line still must open up the holes to get Ware going. A strong Trojans running game would open up the play-action pass for quarterback JT Daniels and could leadto one of USC’s best offensive days of the season. It would also keep the Trojans in third-and-short situations, limiting UCLA’s ability to go all out with pressuring Daniels, who has struggled in third and long because of poor protection. USC’s offensive line played six good quarters in a row against Oregon State and in the first half against California, before wilting in the second half in a 15-14 loss to the Golden Bears. If UCLA’s defensive front is going to show something this season, now would be the time.

Getting offensive

USC (369.9 ypg/26.9 ppg): The Trojans get wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. back from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the California game. Pittman was USC’s best offensive player in October, consistently winning one-on-one battles with cornerbacks. In his absence last week, Tyler Vaughns caught eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

UCLA (370.4 ypg/21.9 ppg): Bruins coach Chip Kelly gushed about quarterback Wilton Speight’s performance against Arizona State last weekend, indicating that the graduate transfer might be on track to make a second consecutive start. Speight was working with the first team during the part of practice open to the media this week. Tailback Joshua Kelley (99.9 yards rushing per game) gives the Bruins’ offense a reliable option, and tight end Caleb Wilson is coming off his best game of the season (11 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns).

Getting defensive

USC (370 ypg/26.6 ppg): The Trojans did what they had to do defensively against Cal, holding the Golden Bears to 207 yards of offense. UCLA won’t be as one-dimensional as Cal, though, with Speight able to stretch the field to Wilson and Theo Howard. This is a game for USC’s key seniors — Cameron Smith, Marvell Tell III and Iman Marshall — to take the lead with a chance to complete a 4-0 record against the Bruins.

UCLA (442 ypg/33.3 ppg): Want a safe way to move the ball on the Bruins? Run, run, run. UCLA’s rushing defense is allowing 215.5 yards per game, second-worst in the Pac-12 and No. 113 nationally. The Bruins actually got the stop they needed late in the game against Arizona State to give themselves a chance at a comeback victory, but they haven’t been able to generate any sort of consistent pass rush with their linebacker corps depleted.

Something special

Last week, USC declined to kick a field goal in the first quarter that could have been the game’s deciding points. Instead, USC coach Clay Helton called for a fake, a failed run by placekicker Michael Brown.

Of note

Both teams will wear their home jerseys, a tradition that restarted in 2008.

Injury report

UCLA hopes to get back tailback Kazmeir Allen, receiver Kyle Philips and tackle Justin Murphy from the injuries that have sidelined them in recent weeks. Philips seemed the closest to a return in practice this week, fielding punt returns in special-teams drills. … USC should be without right tackle Chuma Edoga (knee), who will be replaced by redshirt freshman Jalen McKenzie.

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