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USC & UCLA Hope To End Disappointing Seasons On High Note

Sports Network - The season will end on Saturday for both the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins when the long-time, Pac-10 Conference rivals collide at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. USC's 7-5 record would normally be good enough for a bowl bid, but the program is ineligible for postseason play both this season and next because of NCAA sanctions. The violations committed by the Trojans occurred under the previous regime, so first-year head coach Lane Kiffin will be home during bowl season through no fault of his own. Coach Kiffin's group enters this finale with a two-game losing streak, including last weekend's 20-16 setback at home to Notre Dame.

As for UCLA, it enters with a 4-7 record, not what head coach Rick Neuheisel expected entering this season. Like the Trojans, the Bruins come into this tilt on a two-game slide. Last Friday, UCLA put forth a miserable defensive effort in a 55-34 loss to Arizona State, spoiling one of the team's best offensive showings of the campaign. The Bruins have been much better at home than on the road, as three of their four victories have come in the Rose Bowl.

Last season, USC cruised to a 28-7 victory over UCLA to extend its series lead over the Bruins to 43-28-7.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley missed the Notre Dame game with an ankle injury, but he is expected to be on the field for this weekend's affair. Barkley is one of the best players in the Pac-10, as he has completed 63 percent of his passes this season for 2,593 yards and 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has some outstanding targets at his disposal, including Robert Woods and Ronald Johnson. Woods paces the club with 62 catches and 735 receiving yards, while Johnson checks in with eight receiving scores. The top tailback on the roster is Marc Tyler, as he has rushed for 868 yards and nine touchdowns.

While the Trojans are generating 31.2 ppg and 427.9 total ypg, they are permitting 27.8 ppg and 403.5 ypg. USC has yielded 40 touchdowns to opposing offenses, 29 of which have been passing scores. The secondary has struggled mightily, permitting opposing quarterbacks to rack up 262.0 ypg through the air. The run defense could certainly stand some improvement as well, as 4.4 yards per rushing attempt are being allowed. T.J. McDonald paces USC with 89 total tackles, and he has three interceptions to his credit.

Mitch Mustain made the start at quarterback for USC against Notre Dame, and the senior completed 21-of-38 passes for 183 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He did run for a short touchdown, but the Trojan ground attack was limited to 74 yards on 29 attempts, an average of 2.6 yards per attempt. USC was just 4-of-17 on third-down conversion attempts and struggled mightily to sustain drives all night.

Defensively, USC played fairly well against Notre Dame despite surrendering three touchdowns to the Irish. The Trojans only permitted 296 total yards and came up with four takeaways, numbers that will almost always result in victory.

As for UCLA, it is still without quarterback Kevin Prince, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Richard Brehaut has been under center throughout the second half of the season, and he clearly had his best game against Arizona State last week. Brehaut completed 33-of-56 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception, and the quarterback also ran for a score. Taylor Embree made nine catches for 105 yards, and Johnathan Franklin rushed for 73 yards in the setback. It is hard to blame the offense for the loss, as UCLA posted 34 points and 30 first downs along with 442 total yards.

It took a terrible defensive effort by the Bruins to ruin the strong showing of Brehaut and the offense. UCLA's defense was victimized for 595 total yards and six touchdowns, including four passing scores. The club permitted ASU to connect on 28-of-39 passes for 384 yards with no interceptions, while also yielding a staggering 6.6 yards per rushing attempt.

Through 11 games, UCLA is generating 20.7 ppg and 312.9 total ypg, numbers that won't scare any opponent. The Bruins have just eight touchdown passes, and 13 of their passes have been intercepted. Brehaut has completed 55.9 percent of his tosses for 1,066 yards and five scores with six picks. There is a glaring lack of talent at the receiver position, but UCLA does possess an outstanding tailback in the person of Johnathan Franklin. He has rushed for 1,018 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Opponents are averaging 30.5 ppg and 415.2 total ypg against UCLA, which has plenty of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, the coaches can't be happy about the fact that the Bruins are yielding 199.5 rushing ypg at a clip of 5.1 yards per carry. Of the 39 touchdowns that they have permitted, 22 have come on the ground.