USC vs. UCLA prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Saturday night’s matchup between the Trojans and Bruins.
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 – 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
TV Broadcast: ESPN
We all need to give Clay Helton a round of applause for that decision to bench Max Browne and start Sam Darnold. USC (7-3) is 6-1 since the redshirt freshman quarterback took over, and is currently riding a six-game winning streak. Consecutive victories over Arizona State, Colorado, Arizona, Cal and Oregon set the Trojans up for a high-profile matchup with Washington on Saturday night where they took down the Huskies, 26-13.
UCLA (4-6) has unexpectedly fallen upon some hard times — especially with Josh Rosen’s shoulder problems. The Bruins had lost four games in a row from Oct. 8 to Nov. 3, but they did manage to snap out of it on Saturday. Jim Mora’s team hosted Oregon State and took down the Beavers, 38-24, which was UCLA’s first win since Oct. 1.
The Trojans and Bruins have squared off 85 times, and it’s USC who leads the all-time series, 45-7-31. Two of the Trojans’ wins were vacated, but last year’s victory wasn’t. USC took down UCLA in Los Angeles, 40-21.
What To Know About USC
Darnold wasn’t as dominant against Washington as we’re used to seeing, but he was still solid against one of the nation’s best defensive units. Plus, he led the Trojans to the win, so that’s really what matters. Darnold completed 23-of-33 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Darreus Rogers led the team with six receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. And it was Daniel Imatorbhebhe who reeled in the other score. He ended up with five catches for 78 yards.
Ronald Jones II supplied the firepower on the ground with 93 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Darnold was USC’s second-leading rusher, and he only picked up 15 yards on four carries.
What to Know About UCLA
Mike Fafaul has been asked to throw the ball a lot since he took over for Rosen, and that was the tone set in the win over Oregon State as well. He completed 25-of-47 passes for 281 yards and an interception. Jordan Lasley led the Bruins with five receptions for 105 yards. Darren Andrews tacked on 74 yards on six grabs, and Theo Howard reeled in five balls for 30 yards.
Ironically, UCLA’s running game, which has been abysmal all season long, is what powered the offense. Bolu Olorunfunmi took eight carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. Soso Jamabo picked up 36 yards on only three attempts, and Jalen Starks packed a punch with 24 yards and two touchdowns off of 10 carries.
Offense: USC – This isn’t even close. Darnold is far superior to Fafaul, and the Trojans can consistently run the ball.
Defense: USC – Adoree’ Jackson picked off Jake Browning twice last Saturday. The Trojans have the edge.
Special Teams: USC – Jackson has both a kick return touchdown and a punt return touchdown. He’s amassed 684 return yards so far this season.
Coaching: USC – Helton gets the credit for making the move to Darnold, and it paid off in a big way.
Matchup To Watch
Sam Darnold vs. Mike Fafaul
Darnold’s ceiling is a lot higher than Fafaul’s. But the USC quarterback did throw two picks against the Huskies. Granted, Washington’s defensive unit is top-notch. But this game will come down to whichever quarterback limits his mistakes and maximizes his opportunities to stretch the field vertically and fling the ball down the field. Darnold has more weapons, but if Fafaul can keep the game close with his own big-time performance, UCLA might be able to steal a win.
Spread: USC -10.5
Over/Under: No line as of publication
USC vs. UCLA Prediction
We’d much rather watch Darnold and Rosen go toe-to-toe, but that isn’t the case this time around. So, strap up for another USC victory. Darnold will throw for 300 yards against a lackluster Bruins defense. He’ll toss three touchdowns, two of which will go to Imatorbhebhe, with JuJu Smith-Schuster on the receiving end of the third. Jones will pack a punch in the running game, and he’ll tack on a rushing touchdown. Fafaul will throw for a couple of touchdowns, but he’ll get picked off a couple of times, too. The Trojans take this one despite a late UCLA comeback attempt.
USC vs. UCLA Score Prediction: USC 35, UCLA 28