Pac-12 Preview: USC and UCLA

On today’s edition of our 2019 college football preview, we will be taking a look at the two main teams from Southern California. Both USC and UCLA struggled last season, but look to bounce back with returning production and added depth.

Team: UCLA

2018 Record: 3-9

2019 O/U: 5.5

Chip Kelly’s first year as UCLA’s head coach can’t be described as anything other than a complete dumpster fire. The Bruins started the year 0-5, were completely annihilated by their ranked competition, during the conference’s down year no less, and barely squeaked out wins against struggling Arizona, USC, and Cal teams. The team did show signs of growth down the stretch and have a lot of production returning in 2019, but they still have a steep rebuild ahead.

Their offense started to figure things out late last season and they hope to carry that over into 2019. Star wide receiver Caleb Wilson and offensive lineman Andre James are gone, but they will be returning eight other starters on the offensive side of the ball. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is back as their starting quarterback and hopes to stay healthy this time around. He and the offense averaged 35 points per game in the final three games of the season and hope to carry the momentum into 2019.

UCLA had a lot of issues on defense in 2018, more so than the offense, but they will also be returning a lot of production with nine starters coming back. The secondary has some great up and coming talent such as Darnay Holmes and Elijah Gates and should take a step forward this year.

The Bruins shouldn’t sit in the Pac 12’s basement, but fans still shouldn’t expect the Bruins to jump right into championship contention. It still remains to be seen if Chip Kelly can turn things around and start locking up more four and five star recruits. I expect UCLA to add a couple wins in 2019, but I still don’t think they’re capable of a winning record just yet.

2019 Regular Season Record Prediction: 5-7

Team: USC

2018 Record: 5-7

2019 O/U: 7 

USC is the biggest wildcard in the Pac 12. The Clay Helton era has been quite a roller coaster in Southern California and it remains to be seen what kind of year the Trojans will give us.

Quarterback JT Daniels was a major disappointment despite having a loaded receiving core during his freshman campaign. He will need to have a bounce back season, but he’s going to need a lot of help. In 2018 the team was simply unable to run the ball, and a leaky offensive line often left Daniels running for his life.

The Trojans will likely be relying heavily on the passing attack once again in 2019. The offensive line isn’t much better, but Daniels will once again have an arsenal of top tier wide receivers to work with. Graham Harrell, not Kliff Kingsbury, will take over as the offensive coordinator and plans to slow things down a bit for his sophomore quarterback. USC often outsmarted themselves in key situations last season and the offense desperately needs to be streamlined.

The formula for success is simple on the offense, but the defensive side of the ball is loaded with question marks. The secondary has numerous four and five star recruits, but most of them have seen little to no playing time and there is virtually no depth. A lot of USC’s toss up games will come down to whether or not the secondary has seen any improvement. The front seven should fare better, but they will be relying heavily on Sophomore linebacker Palaie Gaoteote.

If things go right for the Trojans they could squeak in to the Pac-12 championship, but a brutal schedule and dozens of questions make it unlikely. They’re in the same division as Utah, have to play both Oregon and Washington as a part of their Pac 12 North slate, and will be taking on Notre Dame in non-conference play. Even if things start to click for the Trojans, they still aren’t ready to take on top ten caliber teams.

2019 Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-5

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