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Pac-10 Showdown

   by Al McMordie - 12/02/2005

We have to assume that No. 2 Texas is going to beat Colorado. After all, the two already met earlier this season and Texas won 42-17 as a 15-point favorite. When you look at the stats of the game, it was even worse. Colorado had just 237 total yards and the Longhorns had 145 yards rushing and 337 passing. It’s hard to believe the Buffaloes will play as lifelessly as they did Saturday in a stunning 30-3 home loss to Nebraska. Also, Colorado is 1-4 ATS on the road, and while this is technically a neutral site game, it still is "Deep in the heart of Texas."

So, that would leave No. 1 USC needing to beat its rival UCLA to secure the national title game. Can the 9-1 Bruins pull the upset? Oddsmakers don’t think so, with USC a 21-point favorite. After all, USC has won 33 games in a row and is 42-1 their last 43. If they are going to stay competitive, it will be with offense, which is the only thing the Bruins have going for them. Let's give some credit first to the Bruin offense. In 2003, Coach Karl Dorrell's first season, the Bruins were next to last in the Pac-10 with an average of 295 yards a game and picked up only 2.6 yards per rush. Dorrell implemented the same West Coast offense he learned 15 years as an assistant in the colleges and pros, including three seasons with the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan.

Mission accomplished. Just two years later UCLA has quarterback Drew Olson, running back Maurice Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis averaging 40 points, fifth-best in the nation, and averaging 444 yards, including 149 rushing. Olson leads the nation in pass efficiency with a 172.5 rating, and has 30 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. Pro scouts recently said that Olsen doesn't even come close talent-wise to USC QB Matt Leinart, and that Leinart will go in the first round while Olsen will be a marginal pro QB, at best. Of course, all that doesn't matter right now.

Strengthening UCLA's attack, offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Cable came in two years ago and added power to the running game. By putting together a physical line with more mobility, Cable has helped the Bruins grow into a balanced threat. UCLA has 353 rushing attempts and 333 passes. No doubt the Bruins watched Fresno State roll right through the USC defense two weeks ago for 317 yards, actually leading 42-41 in the fourth quarter as a 23-point dog. USC has allowed over 300 passing yards 3 times this season and over 140 rushing yards in 4 of the last 6 games. In addition, UCLA has had three full weeks to prepare for this game.

While that seems to build a case for UCLA to move the ball on the Trojans, we can't overlook the miserable job the UCLA defense has done this season. The defense, like the offense, is balanced, allowing over 215 yards rushing AND passing per game! They've allowed over 139 yards rushing in EVERY game! Think Reggie Bush will be able to reach that? Probably by the half. No wonder UCLA is 8-2 OVER the total.

The UCLA run defense gave up 315 yards rushing to Arizona, 330 to Cal, and 330 to Washington State. USC has had two weeks to prepare since that 50-42 win over Fresno. The 2005 Trojan offense is one for the ages, outscoring opponents by a 48-21 average with 571 yards of offense (249 yards rushing, 6.3 ypc, 322 yards passing pg). Senior QB Matt Leinart (3,216 yards) and junior RB Reggie Bush (1,398 yds, 8.6 yds per carry, 13 TDs) lead this incredible attack.
So what happened last year? USC won 29-24, its sixth straight win over UCLA. However, a closer look shows that the Trojans had the edge in total yards 477-295. A sophomore named Reggie Bush had 200 rushing yards -- on only 15 carries! While the underdog is 24-10-2 against the spread the last 36 years in this City of Angels series, USC is 24-0 SU/17-7 against the spread its last 24 home games. Now that I’ve made a case for both sides, enjoy the game! And if either Texas or USC slips up, enjoy the BCS folk pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do next.

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