LOS ANGELES CA - OCTOBER 16: Head Coach Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans react to a 3rd and 1 conversion against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 16 2010 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tough tests lie ahead in Week 9 for both Los Angeles college football squads. Here's what to watch for as the Trojans host Oregon and the Bruins face Arizona in the Rose Bowl.
1. And the skies rained footballs. For all the hand-wringing Duck fans have done over their non-offensive personnel, Oregon is actually ranked 7th nationally in pass efficiency defense. This is due in some part, of course, to most everybody they've faced immediately falling behind and having to throw to keep pace with the offense, but what happens when those maybe-suspicious stats meet Matt Barkley?
2. What's eating Arizona? The Wildcats hover mid-range in the college football rankings, but they're just two weeks removed from a series of extremely odd games: A 10-9 win over Cal, a 29-27 loss to Oregon State, and a 24-7 win over Washington State. UCLA couldn't be in a worse place, spiritually, after the Oregon debacle, but if Arizona's inconsistency rears up and the Bruins can capitalize ... look, weirder things have happened in college football this season, and probably within the past week.
3. Can Neuheisel cut footloose? Bruins Nation ponders whether UCLA's kicking ways have drawn their coach into his shell:
I wonder if we had a mediocre kicking game, Rick Neuheisel would be a little more aggressive in his decisions wrt to going for it on 4th downs after his team has crossed the midfield. Of course, we are not advocating that he goes for it every single time (that is a strawman argument). What hasn't made sense in last couple of years, which kind of boiler over during Oregon game, when Neuheisel inexplicably went for FGs, when his team desperately needed TDs (just to make his offense feel good).
Bruins are going to be 10 point underdogs tomorrow afternoon. On paper Arizona will have matchup advantages against the Bruins on both sides of the field. I really hope Rick Neuheisel and his coaching staff don't come into this game with the mindset of playing not to lose.
4. Do we, in fact, know yet what USC's defense is capable of? The Trojan D has finally given Barkley & co. some support on the opposite side of the ball, but they haven't faced anything like Oregon this year in terms of speed and scoring output. (Nobody has, except for the seven teams the Ducks have already flattened.) Adaptability will be key, a tall order for a unit still in the first year of implementing a new system.
5. Will hubris win out? One Trojan certainly thinks so:
According to Trojans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, the Ducks aren’t all that talented.
"They have a good running back and a good quarterback. Other than that, they’re really not that good," Casey said.
We suppose we're about to find out. Gut check time for all involved -- on both sidelines.