While the seniors for the USC Trojans try to end their college football careers with a fourth straight win over the UCLA Bruins, tonight's game might just come down to a pair of sophomores. UCLA Running back Johnathan Franklin and USC quarterback Matt Barkley both need strong games for their teams to win. Both will be key players to watch tonight at the Rose Bowl.
Franklin, a redshirt sophomore, has rushed for 1,018 yards for the Bruins this season, the first UCLA running back to top 1,000 yards since Chris Markey in 2006. In fact, Franklin is just the third UCLA running back in the last nine seasons to rush for 1,000 yards. For UCLA this season, the formula is simple: when Franklin runs for 100 yards, as he has done four times, they win; when Franklin is held under triple digits on the ground, the Bruins lose. Franklin rushed for 28 yards on four carries in last year's contest against UCLA, but figures to easily top that tonight. Franklin hasn't had fewer than 11 carries in any game this season, and is averaging 18 carries per contest.
Barkley has had a good sophomore season for the Trojans, throwing for 2,593 yards and 25 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions, a fine improvement over his 15-touchdown, 14-interception tally as a freshman. However, Barkley's production has declined as the season has worn on. After tying a school record with five touchdowns against Cal, Barkley had 20 touchdowns and just four picks on the season. In his last four games (three and a half, really), however, Barkley has just five touchdowns and six interceptions, all while averaging barely over five yards per attempt.
However, the Trojans need Barkley to win. He was sorely missed in last week's loss against Notre Dame, as USC was never able to mount much of an offensive threat with Mitch Mustain at quarterback. Then again, if Ronald Johnson hadn't dropped that pass in the fourth quarter, perhaps there wouldn't be such a sour taste in the mouths of USC fans this week.