USC looks to have advantage on ground against struggling UCLA defense – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — The numbers say a lot.

UCLA’s run defense has struggled for most of the season. The Bruins rank last among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rush defense, allowing more than 300 yards per game on the ground.

Their profile looks no better when adjusted for efficiency. The Bruins allow 5.9 yards per rush attempt, second-to-last in the country.

Examine big plays allowed, too. In its 10 games, UCLA has allowed 25 plays of 20-plus yards.

It looks like a rather favorable matchup for USC’s offense, when the 87th renewal of the crosstown rivalry kicks off Saturday.

Tee Martin, the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, smiled after a practice Tuesday when some of the statistics were shared.

“That’s been against other people,” Mart said. “They always find a way to get well for the Trojans. I don’t expect anything that’s on tape, other than maybe the way they line up. But the effort and what they want to do when they play USC in the Coliseum has been different.”

Since a humbling loss at Notre Dame last month, the Trojans have become more run-oriented – and with some success.

During their three-game winning streak, they ran the ball as often as 67 percent of the time (against Arizona, equaling a season-high). Their lowest percentage of running plays was 53 percent last Saturday at Colorado.

Martin cited some consistency on the offensive line. Freshman Andrew Vorhees has started at right guard for six consecutive games. Chuma Edoga, the junior right tackle, has recovered from an ankle injury.

“It comes with the camaraderie we’ve had with guys consistently being up front,” Martin said. “It’s been makeshift earlier in the year, then we had injuries for a little spat. We’ve consistently had the same guys for three to four weeks.”

During its three-game winning streak, USC has averaged 288 yards on the ground, while junior running back Ronald Jones has stood to gain in particular.

Jones ran for a career-high 27 times against Arizona, then 25 times against Colorado.

NO MOVEMENT

USC vaulted six spots to No. 11 in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings and seemed poised to rise further in this week’s edition after more commotion. Four teams that were ranked ahead of the Trojans all lost last week, including then top-ranked Georgia.

But the Trojans’ position did not change. The new rankings released by the selection committee on Tuesday evening left the Trojans at No. 11.

Both Ohio State and Penn State…

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