Column: USC and UCLA Football season preview


Photo provided by UCLA Photography. Photo taken by Don Liebig. Photo credit: Don Liebig

By Mitchell Ross

The Pac-12 took unprecedented steps to ensure their student-athletes’ safety when they canceled the fall football season on Aug. 11 with hopes of playing a delayed season beginning in Spring 2021.

The canceled season did not last long as officials decided to reinstate an abridged football season with games kicking off Nov. 6 and 7.

What does this mean for Southern California schools UCLA and USC? It means college football in Los Angeles is back.

College football in Los Angeles is a tradition like no other, with the Trojan-Bruin rivalry dating back to 1916. Many a time, a berth to the all famous Rose Bowl game has been on the line when these two teams meet.

This is a preview of both Bruin and Trojan football teams going into week one of the Pac-12 season. Each team will play seven games against in-conference opponents.

Their campuses in Westwood and South Los Angeles are only 12 miles from each other. Yet their football programs could not be further apart in terms of talent and performance.


The Bruins go into 2020 with a mindset of growth and improvement. In his third season as head coach, Chip Kelly is looking to bring the magic that made his Oregon Ducks so lethal to Westwood with the Bruins.

Kelly coached UCLA to a disappointing 4-8 record last season. Although they improved their record by one game from 2018, expectations are for Kelly to keep building up the squad in 2020.

The Bruins are led on the field by their QB, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a junior out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The former four-star recruit and ESPN’s No. 2 dual-threat QB, started 11 games for the Bruins last season and tossed 21 TD passes, 10th most in a single season at UCLA.

Thompson-Robinson is making a name for himself at UCLA, becoming just the fourth Bruin QB to have multiple 400-yard passing games in their school career.

On defense, the Bruins are led by lineman Osa Odighizuwa, who recorded 3.5 sacks last season and tied for the most tackles for loss on the team. Odighizuwa earned a selection to the Pac-12 Second Team All-Conference.

Odighizuwa looks to lead a scrappy Bruin team this season to some upsets against Colorado, Arizona and USC.

The Bruins have a challenging task ahead of them this season. All eyes are on Chip Kelly to build on the 4-8 record from 2019 and make a bowl game for the first time since 2017.

UCLA kicks off this Saturday on the road versus Colorado at 4:00 p.m.


The #20 ranked Trojans led by head coach Clay Helton coming off a 2019 season with an 8-5 record and a miserable 49-24 loss in the Holiday Bowl to Iowa.

Helton will look to prove critics wrong this season and lead USC to the Pac-12 championship for the second time since 2017 when they finished the season 8-1 and appeared in the Cotton Bowl versus Ohio State.

The Trojans are led on the field by QB Kedon Slovis, the true sophomore who unseated J.T. Daniels as the programs No. 1 QB in the second half of last season’s opener.

Slovis finished second to the Heisman winner, Joe Burrow, in completion percentage at 71.9%, setting a Pac-12 single-season record in the process. Slovis comes into 2020 as a potential Heisman candidate, but the shortened schedule may push the Heisman hopes to next season.

Sophomore DE/LB Drake Jackson leads the lethal Trojan defense in 2020.

In his freshman season, Jackson recorded 46 tackles with 11.5 for loss on his way to a freshman All-America selection. He was an honorable mention for Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Star DT for USC, Jay Tufele, opted out of the season and left USC due to COVID concerns. He plans to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.

USC is in a unique situation going into their opener this Saturday versus Arizona State. They have an opportunity to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff this coming Jan.

The CFP Selection Committee values an undefeated team highly when making their selections. If USC can go undefeated and have a win over a good Oregon team in the Pac-12 Championship game, they could sneak their way into the CFP.

More likely than not, USC will reach a non-CFP bowl game, but hopes are high for the Trojans in 2020.