USC vs. UCLA: New-fangled Angles

USC vs. UCLA
November 18, 2017 at 5:14 pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 82,407
Total Time: 3 hours 38 minutes

USC reached a three win streak against UCLA on Saturday night. That ties UCLA’s longest streak this century (misleading stat alert, since there have only been 18 games so far). This is the third such time USC attained a 3+ streak against UCLA in the same time span.

USC completes a second consecutive 10-win season…which ties UCLA’s all-time record for consecutive 10-win seasons. Yet the Bruins had the audacity to run out of the tunnel with a flag that said “Champions Made Here.” Congrats on your one national championship back in 1954. By the way, USC has more Rose Bowl wins than UCLA conference championships. USC has almost as many Rose Bowl appearances (34) as UCLA had of any bowl appearance (35). If the flag meant that champions are made at the Coliseum, then maybe they were on to something. I’ll stop rubbing it in now.

The win was great, but the process was not. The crosstown rivalry game was heavily penalized and the officials, once again, controlled the pace of the game. There were 23 penalties for a total of 215 yards (12-100 UCLA, 11-115 USC). Why does the Pac-12 want to make football unwatchable?

GOOD/BADISMS

BAD: Third down conversions on both sides of the ball. USC had a measly two third down conversions on ten attempts. On the other side, they allowed UCLA to convert over 50% with 10 of 19.

BAD: As per 2017 tradition, USC needed the special teams or defense to score first. Basically, the offenses tied for the first half at 7-7. Neither team scored in the second quarter.

GOOD: Pittman’s punt return touchdown was the difference maker for an inconsistent USC offense.

BAD: Perhaps the DBs should spend more time checking to see where was the ball was rather than whether LiAngelo Ball made it back from China. To be fair, Rosen was throwing really well, so it would’ve been tough no matter what. I really just wanted to make a ball joke.

GOOD: In one of the best plays of the game, a UCLA player managed to tackle his own teammate and incur a penalty in a single move. Impressive!

GOOD: Forcing two red zone turnovers. USC currently has the 4th best red zone defense in the nation.

BAD: Only rushing for 153 yards against a team that allowed an average of 302.3 rushing yards per game. I get that averages may not mean a whole lot, but being a whopping 50% of the average is astounding, especially when we have great running back talent. The Trojans had the lowest yards per carry against the Bruins all season. Our game actually helped them move up from last in rushing defense to second to last. Stats aren’t everything, but I think this shows an issue in game planning by the coaching staff.

SEMI-GOOD: Also, as good as Rosen was, the UCLA offense only scored 23 points. USC was allowing an average of 26.5 points per game before Saturday. That must mean Rosen is a below average quarterback right? Yes, that’s sarcasm.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Darnold’s interception on 4th-and-8 ended up being the same a punt going for a touchback.

BAD: More complaints about issues in short yardage situations.

BAD: Too many bad decisions that led to wasted scoring opportunities. In particular, wasting time outs early in the first half, compounded by some bad decisions in play calling and by Darnold, led to a drive dying at the 5-yard line as time expired. Even a field goal there would have been better than the nothing we got.

GOOD: Uchenna Nwosu is 14th in the nation for passes defended. He is only one of three linebackers in the top 100 and the only linebacker in the top 60.

GOOD: A great tackle by a great kicker, Reid Budrovich.

GOOD: Matt Lopes getting the stylish over-the-shoulder onside kick recovery to end his senior night. UCLA made a huge mistake there. They should’ve trusted USC’s offense—to fail—rather than making a risky onside kick play.

With that, we get to sit around for the “bye week” as we await the results of the Pac-12 North. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State on another annoying Friday game. Stanford’s win eliminated Washington as a Pac-12 North contender due to the head-to-head record. The decision will be made from the annual Apple Cup. If Washington beats Washington State, Stanford will be USC’s opponent.

CommBro Breaker

We’ve got various media outlets reporting that the student section was chanting “one more year” at Darnold. I was in the student section and I heard none of that. Maybe I wasn’t close enough to the front? I will say that I was shouting “one more Tusk” and got a people to join in, so maybe they misheard us? I’ll take credit for bamboozling everyone.

Lottery Stats

Meaningless Stat of the Week: In the last 10 USC-UCLA rivalry games, USC has scored exactly 28 points five times. What does this mean? Illuminati. Always the Illuminati.

For only the second time in the past 10 season, USC has gotten under 20 first downs by penalty. The only other time was 2009, when it was 10. Currently, the Trojans have gotten 9. Meanwhile, opponent first downs by penalty remains a fairly reasonable number. USC is actually last in the nation in receiving first downs by penalty. Stats don’t tell the whole story, but maybe there is some merit to the officials being extra biased this season?

Running count of fourth down conversions: 8 of 22 (36.4%)

Running count of opponent fourth down conversions: 14 of 24 (58.3%)

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