Sports editor predictions ahead of USC-UCLA rivalry game

Annenberg Media sports editors compare the Trojans and Bruins.

Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for the Trojans’ game at the Rose Bowl.

I’m definitely a little scared about this one. Despite being 3-2, UCLA has contended in all of its games this season, and although USC is a perfect 4-0, it hasn’t yet faced an opponent with a winning record. We saw glimpses of how dangerous USC’s offense can be last week against Washington State, and the Trojan defense has given up only 30 points in the last two games combined. If the team can bring this energy against stiffer competition — particularly quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Demetric Felton — USC has a good chance of pulling this one off. Even with solid defensive play, it will be important for USC’s offense to find a rhythm and not get complacent with a potential lead.

Amanda Sturges

This year’s crosstown showdown will be anything but dull. UCLA danced around Arizona and Arizona State, teams the Trojans barely beat. The Bruins will undoubtedly bring the energy that comes with wanting to strip your rival of a Pac-12 Championship run, but it won’t be enough. USC sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis has too many receiving threats on offense. If USC’s defense can hold down star performers in quarterback Thompson-Robinson and running back Felton, like they did against Washington State, and if the offense can break the touchdownless-third quarter curse that’s been cast this season, then the Trojans should have a smooth sail to victory. It’s close, but USC stays perfect. 31-27 Trojans.

Lauren Merola

My gut is telling me there will be three total field goals on Saturday, USC with two and UCLA one.

The Bruins haven’t attempted a field goal in their last three games, but given the rivalry with the Trojans, I would expect UCLA to attempt at least one. They are 3-for-3 this season on field goal attempts, so I say UCLA makes their attempt on Sunday.

The Trojans, unlike their crosstown rival, have attempted at least two field goals in each of their last three games. USC has struggled with third-down conversions this season, with a 41% conversion rate in four games — they’ll likely go for a handful of field goals because of this. I see them making four field goal attempts, but missing one. Freshman placekicker Parker Lewis has missed two attempts this season and I see him finishing 3-for-4 against UCLA.

Liz Islas

Felton has rushed for over 100 yards in three of UCLA’s first five games, but USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has adjusted nicely to defending the run in the last two games. USC’s defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since its second game against Arizona. The recent emergence of Nick Figueroa alongside Drake Jackson on the front seven will cause issues for Felton, who may not even be the top option on the ground for the Bruins, as Chip Kelly has turned to Thompson-Robinson for some carries. On the other side of the ball, the SC offense seems to have caught its stride, and the Trojans’ potential to strike quick and early means catch-up and a lot of passes for the Bruins.

Jill Burke

Last season, Thompson-Robinson tore the Trojans up to the tune of 431 total yards and four touchdowns. DTR has been dynamite in the three games he has been on the field, easily setting career highs in yards per rush, touchdown-to-interception ratio and quarterback rate, so he seems a sure bet to put up at least a few scores Saturday.

But USC’s defense, in a similarly small sample size, is much improved from the unit that DTR carved up a year ago. Per ESPN, USC’s points allowed per game has dropped from 27.8 to 21.8, and the Trojans are allowing only 356.5 total yards per game as opposed to 415.2 in 2019. This defense is hitting its stride coming off two straight efforts holding its opponent below 20 points, and the group has come away with an astonishing eight takeaways in that stretch.

Thompson-Robinson is a threat to be taken seriously, but the Trojan defense has the goods to keep him from outscoring USC’s own prolific offense.

Aidan Berg

Sophomore Drake London will have the most receptions of any USC wide receiver Saturday due to his size and play style. On the opening drive against Washington State, London had two separate receptions for 30 yards against man coverage before junior Amon-Ra St. Brown found the end zone on the drive. Zone coverage has been the favorite among defenses playing USC, and London’s ability to find soft spots in zone coverage will make him Slovis’s favorite target. St. Brown and redshirt senior Tyler Vaughns both had touchdown receptions last game, so the UCLA defense will be honed in on them; it will be London’s opportunity to tear apart UCLA. Watch out for a Drake London show against UCLA after he broke out last year against the Bruins.

Carlo Jiménez