First look: No. 22 UCLA at USC

UCLA running back Paul Perkins ran for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Bruins' 38-20 win over USC last November. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA running back Paul Perkins ran for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Bruins’ 38-20 win over USC last November. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

No. 22 UCLA Bruins (8-3, 5-3) at USC (7-4, 5-3)
Kickoff:
Saturday, Nov. 28, 12:30 p.m., L.A. Memorial Coliseum
TV: ABC/ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: A win over UCLA might not guarantee interim coach Clay Helton the full-time job, but a loss likely ends his chances. … USC’s defense is coming off a dreadful performance against Oregon, one in which it allowed six touchdown passes and 16.3 yards per pass attempt. The Trojans are allowing opponents to complete 63.8 percent through the air, the second-worst mark in the Pac-12 (ahead of Oregon State’s 67.9). … USC lost all-conference center Max Tuerk for the season as well as Toa Lobendahn, the versatile sophomore who replaced him. Former four-star recruit Khaliel Rodgers now mans the position, but is playing through a shoulder injury. … Quarterback Cody Kessler isn’t finding the end zone as often as he did last season (39 touchdowns down to 25), but his numbers have otherwise remained steady. … The Trojans rank first in the Pac-12 and No. 13 nationally with a 0.91 turnover margin. However, they are -3 in their four losses.

Series history: USC leads the all-time series, 44-31-7, but UCLA has won the last three games by double digits. Jim Mora can be the first Bruin coach to win four straight since Terry Donahue had five from 1991-95.

Key players:

QB Cody Kessler, RSr., 6-1, 215 — 243/351, 2,953 yards, 25 TD, 6 INT
— He has seven touchdowns against one interception in his last three games, but he’s twice averaged fewer than 6.0 yards per attempt against Pac-12 opponents this season. Continue reading

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First look: No. 24 USC Trojans

No. 11 UCLA Bruins (8-2, 5-2) vs. No. 24 USC Trojans (7-3, 6-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 22, 5 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: ABC (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: Will Steve Sarkisian again top seven regular-season wins as a head coach?

For several years at Washington, the knock on Sark was that he could never take a team over that hump. Sure, he’d knock off a few ranked teams here and there, but after a 2009 debut that featured upsets of No. 3 USC and No. 19 Cal, his Huskies finished 7-6 for three straight years. When he finally broke through with an 8-4 record last season, he soon took the Trojans’ top job.

Now back at the school where he spent the bulk of his career as an assistant, the 40-year-old is pushing up against that same hurdle. USC will pull more talent than Sarkisian could ever get at UW, but in his first season, the Trojans seem to have a habit of playing down to opponents. Their losses to Arizona State and Utah required them giving up a Hail Mary and a touchdown with eight seconds left. More recently, they took a 31-2 halftime lead against Cal, only to see the Bears score four of the game’s next five touchdowns. Continue reading

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UCLA-USC feature roundup: Larimore and life after football

patrick larimore

For rivalry week, the Los Angeles Daily News published a number of features covering both sides. My biggest piece ran on Thanksgiving, looking at former UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore and how he has dealt with his post-concussion symptoms since retiring from football:

Nearly four months have elapsed since his PR rep first reached out by email. Mismatching schedules delayed the interview, but so too did a bad stretch of post-concussion symptoms.

Asked if he’s feeling OK right now, Larimore smiles a little.

“What do you mean by OK?”

Although his health is a constant work-in-progress, the Bruins’ former defensive MVP has busied himself with creating MyHeadHurts.co, a shared space for brain injury victims of all kinds.

Some of the other stories we ran this week …
— An amusing rundown of the pros and cons of USC hiring Ed Orgeron as its full-time coach.
— USC quarterback Cody Kessler tries not to take anything for granted.
— UCLA tight end/receiver Thomas Duarte is proud of his Japanese/Mexican heritage.
— Lakers guards Jordan Farmar and Nick Young are great friends despite going to rival schools.
— A brief overview of the UCLA-USC rivalry and its most memorable moments, plus things to do before and after the game.

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