The UCLA Bruins will face off against the USC Trojans in a highly anticipated Pac-12 matchup that has huge implications for the conference, as well as the College Football Playoff. Chip Kelly's Bruins have a chance to spoil the Trojans' still-alive College Football Playoff hopes.
Meanwhile, Lincoln Riley is looking to propel USC football back onto the national scene far sooner than anyone could have foreseen.
Taking down USC will be no easy task for UCLA, though. Led by Riley's brilliant offensive mind and the incredible quarterback play of Heisman Trophy-hopeful Caleb Williams, the Trojans are an offensive juggernaut.
The Bruins' defense has stumbled in the last couple of weeks, but they'll need to step up if the team wants to defend their home turf in a crucial Pac-12 matchup.
That said, here's what UCLA must do to defeat USC on Saturday at Rose Bowl Stadium.
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UCLA Must Attack USC With The Running Game
UCLA football must attack the USC defense with the ground game. Luckily, the Bruins are well-equipped to do just that, as they possess one of the best running backs in the nation, Zach Charbonnet, and one of the better mobile quarterbacks in Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
USC has been inconsistent against the run this year, but one area they've had their struggles is defending quarterbacks who can exploit defenses with their legs.
In their one loss of the season to Utah, the Trojans allowed Utes signal-caller Cam Rising to run for 60 yards and three touchdowns.
No disrespect to Rising, but Thompson-Robinson is an even deadlier player when he scrambles out of the pocket. To put extra pressure on the USC football defense, Chip Kelly should dial up plenty of read options with Thompson-Robinson and 1000-yard rusher Charbonnet.
Now is the time for Kelly to fully unleash the Bruins' eighth-ranked rushing offense against their hated Pac-12 rivals. Not only will such plays keep the Trojans' front seven on their toes, but they will also open up big plays down the field.
UCLA Must Test Struggling USC Secondary Downfield
Of course, UCLA is not just a run-first offense. Ranked fifth in the nation in total yards and 11th in points per game, this is legitimately one of the most balanced and effective offenses in college football.
And Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-year senior, is not just a scrambling signal-caller, either. The UCLA football star quarterback has had an excellent year throwing the ball, as he ranks eighth in the nation in QBR, ahead of Alabama's Bryce Young and just behind Georgia's Stetson Bennett.
He is approaching career-best numbers in passing yards and touchdowns and is averaging just over eight yards per pass attempt, which ranks him inside the top-30 passers in college football.
Needless to say, this is an accurate quarterback who makes good decisions and can seriously test opposing secondaries downfield.
So, what happens when one of the most efficient passing attacks in the nation meets one of the leakiest secondaries? That's what we'll find out on Saturday when UCLA takes aim at USC's much-maligned secondary.
So bad has the Trojans secondary been that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (what a name!) said that he wanted to “vomit” given some of the issues that team was having on the defensive side of the ball.
It's a secondary that had yielded 400-plus passing yards in back-to-back games before the schedule makers granted them a reprieve against a toothless Colorado passing attack.
Make no mistake. This remains a unit that, aside from a capable pass rush, simply doesn't strike fear into opposing signal-callers.
Thompson-Robinson has cooled off in recent weeks, having thrown just three touchdown passes in his last three contests.
But this is a major get-right spot for Thompson-Robinson and the rest of the UCLA football passing offense. Look for Chip Kelly to dial up plenty of play-action shots downfield against the Trojans' secondary.
UCLA Football Must Score Early To Energize The Crowd
How excited are fans about their Bruins? UCLA football will be playing in front of the largest student section in the history of the program, featuring 16,700 raucous fans.
Rose Bowl Stadium is going to be energized and loud when the ‘hated' Trojans come to town. The best thing the Bruins can do is get on the board quickly or force an early turnover to give this crowd something to really go crazy about.
If the Bruins can do that, their home field advantage just might propel them toa huge Pac-12 win over the Trojans.