CFN Analysis: The Bruins Take The South
UCLA QB Brett Hundley
CFN Analysis - UCLA will play for the Pac-12 title again after beating USC.
By Richard Cirminiello
And the 2012 Not Coach of the Year goes to … John L. Smith. But Lane Kiffin earned enough votes to finish in second place.
Saturday marked another horrendous coaching job by Kiffin and his staff. It's become a theme during this disappointing season, which began with such high expectations, yet will likely end with a team that won't even be in the Top 25. How does that happen unless Matt Barkley went down in Week 2?
I know, now is a time to celebrate UCLA, and justifiably so. Jim Mora and his staff have done a magnificent job in Year 1 on the other side of town. Mora has been nothing short of a magician by not only getting the Bruins to 9-2 with three games left, but also by changing the climate on campus practically overnight. It's hard to believe that Rick Neuheisel was here only a year ago. However, I can't get past the incessant USC mistakes, the general poor play of this team and the wasted talent. While Barkley and Marqise Lee bring it every week, they're in a small minority on the Troy campus.
The turnovers. The missed tackles. The miscues on special teams. Shouldn't the Trojans have ironed out their wrinkles by now? They should have, but didn't, because the coaching staff has failed to maximize the abundance of talent on hand. And that ought to concern athletic director Pat Haden as he evaluates the state of his program when the offseason begins.
UCLA has caught up to rival USC, and is passing the Trojans on the freeway. And things just might get worse for Troy and Kiffin before they get better; Barkley is out of eligibility. Bruins QB Brett Hundley, on the other hand, is only a redshirt freshman.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
It's official. USC has had a sorely disappointing season. The talent and athletic ability is there, the Trojans have simply been unable to remain focused and motivated to become the team that they could have been.
And because of it, Lane Kiffin's crew will now be relegated to having just a say in whether Notre Dame gets an invite to the big dance or not. There will be no rematch with Oregon for a shot at any kind of title whatsoever. It remains to be seen whether the Trojans can even get excited enough to play the roll of spoiler against the Irish. Unfortunately for the golden-domers, they needed a win against a powerful USC team that has just petered out. They'll have to take their chances now with circumstances and the BCS computers.
But let's not forget about the season that UCLA is putting together. It is now officially the Pac-12 South division champs and are going to get an opportunity to win a conference crown on the field versus either Oregon or Stanford. For those that criticized the hiring of Jim Mora, that should no longer be the case. There's still a road to hoe, but so far so good.
Mora has made a difference in just a short year by putting a better product on the field. What will be interesting to see is if UCLA can keep the momentum going and begin to make big inroads on the recruiting trail in the Southern California sun. This SHOULD be a program changing win, but time will tell.
By Matt Zemek
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"I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody."
Marlon Brando's lament is now USC's lament as well, and in the mold of a team whose season has gone wrong at every turn, the much-maligned defense was not the main reason the Trojans lost.
It was merely one of three equally-balanced reasons the Trojans lost.
Yes, USC's defense couldn't stop a flea in the first quarter, and yes, it got torched late in the fourth quarter on a game-sealing march by UCLA's impressive underclassman, Brett Hundley, but in between those bookends, Matt Barkley propelled the pigskin with a level of accuracy that UCLA defenders loved. The Trojans' special-teams unit committed a huge breakdown – arguably the biggest single lapse of the whole game by either team in any facet of the competition – when punter Kyle Negrete casually walked into the running lane of the one UCLA defender who had a chance to block his kick. UCLA, reeling from a 20-point USC run, needed a boost in the third quarter, and that blocked punt proved to be the tonic the Bruins had to have. USC's momentum was halted on that play, and UCLA made use of it.
By all means, credit the Bruins and head coach Jim Mora, Jr., who have turned the tide in the Battle of Los Angeles. This reversal certainly wasn't expected before the season began. A second straight Pac-12 Championship Game appearance will build UCLA's football brand. Moreover, Hundley gives the Bruins a copious source of a rare and precious commodity in the future: hope.
Yet, how can you deny that the main storyline to emerge from this contest is the completion of USC's collapse? The Trojans have become the first Associated Press preseason No. 1 team to lose four regular-season games since Auburn in 1984. Lane Kiffin will and should coach next year, but after this embarrassment, he has probably lost the right to have two more seasons. If he doesn't deliver the goods in 2013, he'll be on the hot seat.
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball
Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions.
Let's be honest: this was a big day for UCLA football. Despite its 8-2 record, many people expected USC to win this game handily. After all, the Bruins hadn't beaten Trojans since 2006, and had dropped 12 of the last 13 in the series.
However, none of that mattered today, as UCLA played like it expected to win this contest. The Bruins set the tone for the game on the second drive, when Jim Mora elected to go for it on fourth-and-14 rather than attempt a long field goal. While UCLA ended up settling for a field goal at the conclusion of that drive, that clutch conversion let the USC defense know that it was going to be a long afternoon.
Now that the Bruins got the proverbial monkey off their back, they will play in the Pac 12 Championship game for the second straight season. Even though UCLA will likely be the underdog in that game, today's victory proves that it can win against the top teams in the conference. That has to come as welcome news to Notre Dame and Alabama fans.
On the other hand, today's defeat is the latest tragedy in an already disappointing season for USC. Instead of competing for a national championship, the Trojans lost four games in conference play this season, which wasn't even enough to win the Pac 12 South. Even if his team should regroup and beat Notre Dame next week -- a big if considering how well the Fighting Irish played today -- Lane Kiffin might want to start preparing a new resume.