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USC-UCLA Power Rankings: Week 3

Reviewing the on-field hits and misses for L.A. teams after the first win-win weekend for both USC and UCLA.

 

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1. UCLA esprit de corps. The Bruins needed some breaks Saturday night against Houston, make no mistake, but came away with a 31-13 win over a ranked team and a cheerfully chippy outlook heading into what's going to be an incredibly tough test against Texas and the balance of their conference schedule.

2. Patrick Larimore, UCLA linebacker and reigning FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, following a statement game against Houston in which he amassed 11 tackles (10 unassisted), broke up a pass, and forced a fumble.

3. Ronald Johnson, USC wide receiver, who made a statement play of his own -- a 53-yard touchdown catch at Minnesota.

4. Allen Bradford in particular and USC's ground game in general. The Trojans' senior running back racked up 131 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries against Minnesota, and the team gained over 200 rushing yards without the services of Marc Tyler. There are times when running back by committee works beautifully to a squad's advantage. This was a great example.

5. Kevin Prince. UCLA's sophomore quarterback didn't have a stellar night -- 9 of 17 for 99 yards and an interception -- but he displayed some moves on the ground for the first time all season, adding 60 rushing yards and a touchdown to the Bruins' total.

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6. USC's unit discipline. Seven penalties for 72 yards is actually an improvement, believe it or not, but far from desirable. Conquest Chronicles is concerned:

It's still better than the 12-for-125 yards they averaged in weeks one and two, but regardless, the number is too high if this bunch has a serious shot at upending teams like Stanford and Oregon. With a lack of depth and a largely inexperienced roster, USC doesn't have the option of giving up free yardage to the opposition.

7. Matt Barkley's consistency. The sophomore signal-caller threw two touchdowns, but also two picks against Minnesota.

8. Sean Westgate, UCLA linebacker, whom Bruins Nation calls a "liability against the run." Can the tackling improvement shown against Houston repeat itself against the Longhorns?

9. UCLA's breathing room. Beating a ranked team is great. It's also the tip of the iceberg as far as UCLA's remaining schedule is concerned. Two top-ten teams loom large on the slate, and a heinously difficult road trip comes with each. Texas is up first. Gut check, Bruins. The Longhorns do have weaknesses. Will this week's improvements and the team's elevated mental state be enough to capitalize on them?

10. USC's strength of schedule, and that's to the good. The prospect of USC gelling as a team before the meat of their schedule improves as that meat looks less and less ... meaty? They had one more warmup game before things got serious, and now Washington looks so iffy it might count as two.