THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 13:
UCLA at USC
Details/TV: At the Coliseum, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:
UCLA head coach Jim Mora must feel like the returning champion on “Jeopardy!” ready to move onto the Tournament of Champions at some point. For the last three seasons, Mora has out-Trebeck-ed whatever was category was presented by the USC coaching staff, answering any doubt about city superiority by posting victorious scores of 38-28, 35-14 and 38-20. The last one resulted in him screaming as he left the Rose Bowl field: “We own this town!” No penalty for not phrasing that it in the form of a question. The Trojans’ head coaches during UCLA’s recent run were Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisian, and while some may have left with some nice parting gifts, there’s not a lot of satisfaction. Now Clay Helton gets the call, with the possibility that no matter what happens here, he may not be around for the 2016 meeting.
The 83rd version of the L.A. city championship has the battle-torn Pac-12 South title available for whomever wants it more, since the Trojans (7-4, 5-3) or AP No. 22 Bruins (8-3, 5-3) have already claimed a tie-breaker against once-mighty Utah. The winner here moves onto the Dec. 5 Pac-12 title game against Stanford, and a chance to play on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl. The loser can consider flight plans for some Southwest destination.
The career intersection of the two quarterbacks – UCLA freshman Josh Rosen and USC senior Cody Kessler – makes for an adorable storyline. Rosen, whose school-record streak of passes without an interception is up to 218, gets introduced to a battered USC defense that was just shredded by Oregon to the tune of six TD passes and 407 passing yards. Rosen is third in the Pac-12 in passing yards (2,444 through eight games), and senior Jordan Peyton, the school’s career reception leader, is the only one in the conference averaging more than 100 yards receiving per game in Pac-12 play this year. He’s up against a Trojans’ passing defense that ranks eighth in the conference at the moment.
UCLA running back Paul Perkins runs for yardage against USC in the 2014 game at the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
The Bruins, who rank first in that category, pretty much know everything capable of USC’s Kessler, third in the conference in passing efficiency. He came into the UCLA game last year having thrown for 400 and 371 yards in wins against Washington State and Cal, but was held to 214 (22 of 34 passing, 1 TD, 1 INT) in the 18-point loss in 2014. The year before, he was just 17 of 28 for 174 yards and a TD in the 21-point loss.
Despite USC’s renewed emphasis on the running game, the team is still trailing the Bruins in total rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns, as UCLA junior Paul Perkins is in the conference top eight in rushing yards, touchdowns and all-purpose yards.
Still, USC, which had won five in a row from 2007-2011, has the series overall lead at 44-31-7.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
The Lakers throw themselves at the feet of the 15-0 Golden State Warriors (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., TNT) … The NFL throws out Philadelphia-Detroit (9:30 a.m., Channel 11), Carolina-Dallas (1:30 p.m., Channel 2) and Chicago-Green Bay (5:30 p.m., Channel 4) on Thanksgiving … UCLA’s basketball team heads to Maui for three games, starting with UNLV (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2) … The Kings come back from a road trip to meet again with defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago (Staples Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., FSW) … More at this link.