Rivalry Week gets started a week early, as the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans meet in the battle of LA. I know people will be looking for a pick on this game, so let’s try and hammer out a winner. USC will do the hosting duties at the Coliseum for this one, as this year’s edition is a rivalry within a rivalry. The rivalry within a rivalry is Josh Rosen vs. Sam Darnold. These two have been compared throughout their careers, and now we can finally see them in a head-to-head spot.
This was supposed to be the second edition of Rosen vs. Darnold, but an injury to Rosen a year ago derailed that. Rosen and Darnold have both played USC and UCLA, but never against one another. In 2015 as a freshman, Rosen went up against Cody Kessler and lost that one 40-21. The following year USC won again behind Darnold, and this time Rosen had to watch from the sidelines.
If you’re going by mock drafts, Darnold is the better quarterback. If you’ve watched them both play this season, it’s difficult to really say. Rosen came back last week after sitting out with an injury. He threw for 381 yards and a touchdown and interception. Meanwhile, Darnold has looked great at times, and in other spots you are left scratching your head with his decision making.
He has shown that he has the ability to make all of the throws they ask of quarterbacks in the NFL, but we’ve seen him make wrong reads more than on a few occasions in 2017. His WTF moments do make you want to compare him to Christian Hackenberg, who had that one big year and then faded away. I don’t know if he becomes a yearly pro-bowler in the NFL, but his career will work out better than Hackenberg, which isn’t saying much.
Darnold hasn’t decided if he’s going to declare for the draft or stay another year in college. From what we’ve seen from him, he will have to work really hard this summer if he wants to be starting for an NFL team next September. He of course will go in and compete for the starting job, but if he wins it will be a different story.
Jared Goff struggled mightily in his rookie year and now looks like an MVP candidate, so it won’t be make or break for him. Well, if he is drafted by the Browns a bad year could completely mess with his confidence as a whole. For now, though, I’m more focused on what he’s going to do this weekend. The scouts will be watching, and as will I. Get our free UCLA vs. USC pick below for this rivalry contest in Los Angeles.
UCLA Bruins vs. USC Trojans Betting Odds:
vs. USC -16(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
UCLA vs. USC Pick:
Is this just the beginning of the Rosen-Darnold rivalry? This one could carry over into the NFL as both are expected to be high draft picks in the draft. They’ll be compared in this matchup, leading up to the draft, and then throughout their careers. Darnold should be the quarterback who looks better in this game. He has an advantage in the sense that he has the UCLA defense staring at him. Also, Darnold has Ronald Jones to hand the ball off to, a better running game than the Bruins have by far.
UCLA are 124th in the FBS on defense, and have been a punching bag for whoever wants to come and take a shot at them. Their main issues arise in the ability to stop the run. Tackling is part of football, but UCLA make it seem like it’s a foreign chore. On the year, the Bruins are allowing a whopping 302.3 yards per game, which ranks dead last in the nation. The next worst is San Jose State, who are allowing 292.9 rushing yards per game.
Ronald Jones should be able to have a field day on the UCLA defense. He has rushed for 1,224 yards with a 6.7 average per carry. USC will establish the run early, and then watch for Darnold to pick the UCLA defense a part as the game goes on. Darnold has passed for 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He will add to that touchdown number by at least a few on Saturday.
USC are 13th in the nation with 495 yards per game, they should have no problems eclipsing that number. Offense is the only thing UCLA has to counter with. Josh Rosen has passed for 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He looked sharp against Arizona State, passing for 381 yards, after missing the previous game. The Trojans should be able to take an early lead, only to force Rosen to fire at will on USC. This spread is tricky, I can see a backdoor or other shenanigans happening late to impact it one way or the other. This game is all about the quarterbacks, and I think they show up for this one in LA. It leads us to a selection on the OVER.
PICK: OVER 71 (-110)