2021 Game 10: USC Football vs. UCLA
UCLA Bruins (6-4, 4-3) at USC Trojans (4-5, 3-4)
United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 1 p.m. PT on FOX
Bruin to Watch: Senior QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
UCLA's veteran quarterback is 0-2 as a starter against USC, but he has played some of the best football of his career against the Trojans. In 2019, he accounted for 431 yards (367 passing + 64 rushing) and 4 TDs (3 passing + 1 rushing). In 2020, he accounted for 414 yards (364 passing + 50 rushing) and 4 TDs (all passing). Those are monster games, especially for Thompson-Robinson, who has been marred by inconsistency as a thrower in his college career. Technically, he could come back next year, but if he views this as his final season, DTR will crave a signature moment against UCLA's biggest rival.
There's no denying that UCLA's rush offense vs. USC's rush defense is a bad matchup for the Trojans on paper. Zach Charbonnet and Britain Brown are the best running back duo in the league, both ranking among the top eight rushers. Add in Thompson-Robinson's wheels and the Trojans have a similar problem to the one faced in Tempe two weeks ago. In that game, USC did a decent job for a half but the dam broke by the end and the Sun Devils racked up 282 yards on the ground. The Trojans have to find a way to make DTR a thrower and force UCLA to the air.
Did you hear the one about the freshman quarterback who made his first college start in the Crosstown Showdown and led the Trojans to victory over their bitter rivals? Rivalries are all about unlikely stories and Jaxson Dart has the chance to play a leading role in this year's tale. Dart has proven to be fearless, coming off the bench in Pullman to carve up the Cougs despite a banged up knee. He won't be awed by the moment on Saturday, but he might be a little over energized, so he'll need to settle himself down quickly to ignite the USC offense.
Since Donte Williams took over, he has preached a 1-0 mentality every day in every activity for the Trojans. But, victories have been hard to come by for this team and bigger picture issues have surfaced at times. Rivalry week solves that problem though. In any season, the Crosstown Showdown is a standalone game that draws 100% focus from both combatants. The Trojans may not be able to salvage their season with a win, but a signature Saturday at the Coliseum would reinforce Williams' messaging and give the program the momentum it needs to build itself back up.