USC-UCLA preview capsule

No. 24 USC (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) at No. 11 UCLA (8-2, 5-2), 8 p.m. (ABC)

Line: UCLA by 3 1/2.

Series Record: USC leads 46-30-7.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

UCLA has a clear path to the Pac-12 title game and a possible shot at the College Football Playoff, but only if the Bruins get their third straight victory in this crosstown showdown. Both teams are on a surge, and USC could punctuate coach Steve Sarkisian's debut season by reclaiming the Victory Bell.

KEY MATCHUP

USC QB Cody Kessler vs. UCLA LBs Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. Kessler is quietly putting together one of the best statistical seasons in the school's lengthy history of stellar quarterback play, ranking fourth nationally in pass efficiency, completion percentage (the best in USC history) and TD passes (29, with just 3 interceptions). UCLA's defense will need plenty of help from its two biggest defensive playmakers to disrupt Kessler's groove.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

USC: CB Josh Shaw. Nobody knows how much the senior will play - if at all - in his season debut after his 10-game suspension ended this week. But the Trojans have missed his presence in their secondary, and Shaw is eager to salvage something from a season that nearly ended with his fall from a balcony.

UCLA: QB Brett Hundley. The national leader in pass completion percentage takes pride in his perfect record against USC, memorably declaring that ''UCLA runs L.A. now'' after last season's victory at the Coliseum. Hundley also would become the Bruins' career leader in total offense with 260 more yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC's Javorius Allen and UCLA's Paul Perkins are the Pac-12's top two rushers. ... While UCLA only needs to win out to capture the Pac-12 South, USC also could win the division with a victory over UCLA and a loss by Arizona State. ... The game completes the conference schedule for USC, which hosts Notre Dame next week. ... UCLA has won the schools' past two meetings, but only three of the last 15. The Bruins haven't won three straight over the Trojans since 1996-98. ... Thanks to television, the game is being played at 5 p.m. or later for just the 10th time in the schools' 84 meetings. ... UCLA needs one more win for its third straight nine-victory season under coach Jim Mora - a first in school history.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.