Special Teams and Prediction
Can they kick it?
Before the season there weren’t many Trojans fans that would have believed that Chase McGrath would be in the transfer portal, but he is, and it’s due to the excellent work from freshman Parker Lewis this season.
Lewis has a booming leg that essentially guarantees touchbacks and pushes his range on field goals well beyond 50 yards. He is 7-for-9 this season and looks more comfortable kicking from longer distances, as he has a couple of short misses, including a 31-yard attempt against WSU.
Ben Griffiths is much improved over last season, averaging 45 yards per punt while doing a nice job keeping the opponents inside the 20-yard line.
Meanwhile, Luke Akers is averaging 42.6 yards per punt for UCLA, but their field goal kicker, Nicholas Barr-Mira is only 3-for-3 on the season with a long of 44 yards.
On the return side of things, UCLA doesn’t return punts, with only two attempts this season, and Felton averages 21 yards per kick return. USC has just seven returned kickoffs and their punt returning is less than exciting.
For the Bruins to win this game, they better have saved their best for last. It’s possible, as they look increasingly dangerous each week and could very well be 5-0.
Yet, this is USC and the talent disparity is vast. On the field, USC has the advantage. On the sideline, the edge goes to UCLA.
Every week, it’s the same story: Can USC’s offensive line do enough to keep Slovis clean and generate any type of running game to keep the opponent honest. UCLA will be the best pass rush USC has seen but it still shouldn’t be enough to prevent Slovis and co. from reaching another level as a unit.
On defense, USC should win the majority of the time but will likely give up a few disastrous plays in the process. Kelly’s offense does that to most teams…remember his groups at Oregon had a propensity to hang 50-60 points on the Trojans.
The key is to take advantage of DTR’s inaccuracy and limit his ability to hurt them on the ground. If he has a big game, USC will lose. But he won’t. The Trojans are too good on the outside and Orlando will likely deploy a spy to prevent those off-schedule plays that could kill USC.
Expect the Men of Troy to ring the Victory Bell on their march toward the Pac-12 title game.