UCLA vs. USC will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday on ABC

With the Pac-12 South at stake, UCLA will host USC in a primetime slot this coming Saturday.

The rivalry game will kick off at the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., with a national broadcast on ABC. Arizona State had held the inside track to the Pac-12 title game for the last month, but its upset loss to Oregon State last night shifts to spotlight to Pasadena — where the Bruins and the Trojans will play a de facto division elimination game.

With two weeks left, five teams still remain mathematically alive to win the Pac-12 South. But despite the hodgepodge of potential tiebreaker scenarios, UCLA holds the clearest path: win out against USC and Stanford, and the Bruins will earn a second shot at Oregon at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5.

Beat the Ducks, and a playoff berth that seemed laughable a month ago will be within UCLA’s grasp.

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Four-star shooting guard Prince Ali officially joins UCLA’s 2015 class

Prince Ali has officially signed with the UCLA men’s basketball team, the school announced Thursday, giving the Bruins a second top backcourt prospect in their 2015 class.

The four-star shooting guard is a consensus top-40 national recruit according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is a former Sagemont (Fla.) High teammate of UCLA freshman forward Gyorgy Goloman. Ali joins a class that includes four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, whose signing was announced Wednesday.

“Prince is an extremely talented player who has established himself as one of the premier backcourt players in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He’s a big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility and comes to our program with a strong understanding of a winning culture. Prince is a wonderful young man and a great addition to the Bruin family.

“When you factor in the signing of Aaron Holiday, our staff couldn’t be more excited about the start of this 2015 class.”

The Bruins do not currently have any other 2015 basketball commitments.

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UCLA signs four-star point guard Aaron Holiday

UCLA has officially signed four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former Bruin and current New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday.

Aaron Holiday is one of two commitments that UCLA currently holds in the class of 2015. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard is ranked the No. 58 best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 36 by Scout.com. A natural scorer with impressive athleticism, Holiday was named CIF Southern Section Division 4A Player of the Year after his junior season at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall.

“Aaron is a very talented player who we know will really help our backcourt next season,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is a quick, tough guard who possesses the ability to be both an efficient scorer and a lockdown defender. Our coaching staff is excited to add a player of Aaron’s caliber, both on and off the court, to our 2015 class, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Bruin family.”

Older brother Jrue Holiday only spent one season with the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds while playing out of position next to then-starting point guard Darren Collison. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 11/11/14 Answers

Q: UW is not a great team; rocked by injuries, dismissals and the travails of a first year coach … but yet the Bruin’s victory over UW is being billed as the Bruins first “complete game”. Do you think that will lead to overconfidence going into the SC game in a couple of weeks?

A: I don’t think it’ll necessarily lead to overconfidence given the stakes of the rivalry, but I do think that UCLA’s win over Washington has been a little overrated — particularly with the Bruins jumping seven spots to No. 11 in the playoff rankings. It was a solid victory, but UW wasn’t an overpowering team to begin with, had just dismissed its best cornerback, and was playing its best linebacker mostly at running back. That said, I do think UCLA is very much a top-15 team, just one that’s also benefited from a slight break in the schedule.

Q: After the last two games, I’m conflicted on Jeff Ulbrich. I had thought he needed more training in another job elsewhere before taking on the DC spot … but since Arizona, the defense has been playing better, meaning Ulbrich is adapting, learning … what’s your take? Should he be encouraged to go elsewhere or will his on-the-job training be a good investment?

A: Even when the defense looked worse at midseason, I didn’t think Ulbrich was/should’ve been at significant risk of being pushed out. Continue reading

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UCLA jumps to No. 11 in College Football Playoff rankings

Could UCLA sneak back into the College Football Playoff after all?

The Bruins’ chances are still slim, but after beating Washington on the road last Saturday, they vaulted seven spots to No. 11 in the latest selection committee rankings. That puts a team that many had left for dead back in mid-October at least potentially in line for a “New Year’s Six” bowl.

Obviously, UCLA still needs to win out to clinch a spot in the final four — as well as hope for a few other dominoes to fall just right. It will need Arizona State to lose at least one game (possibly at Arizona on Nov. 28), and then pull an unlikely upset against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.

But if the Sun Devils win out and shut the Bruins out of the conference title game entirely, the latter could be well positioned to climb into a premier postseason game. UCLA has to be considered a favorite over both USC and Stanford given its recent improvement, and could stand at 10-2 at the end of the month.

If the Ducks then blow out ASU at Levi’s Stadium, a selection committee that clearly thinks highly of the Pac-12 could decide that the Bruins are more worthy of an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Paul Perkins comfortable with increased workload in UCLA’s backfield

Paul Perkins has lived up to any and all expectations in his first full season as UCLA’s starting running back, becoming the program’s 13th 1,000-yard rusher and ranking third in the Pac-12 with 117.2 yards per game.

Along the way, the redshirt sophomore has had to adjust to a much heavier workload. Last season, he only took double-digit carries five times, and finished the year with 130. This season, he has taken at least 14 carries in every game, and has a total of 190.

“It’s good to have a bye,” Perkins said. “That’s pretty much all I can say.”

Head coach Jim Mora hasn’t noticed a difference in the 5-foot-11 tailback’s performance.

“He hasn’t really shown any indication of being worn out or worn down at all,” he said. “Even on a Tuesday, he bounces back. I guess that’s the good thing about being 19 or 20 years old.” Continue reading

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