The UCLA Bruins are in control of their own fate heading into the regular season finale Saturday night with the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. UCLA (6-4, 5-3) can win the Pac-12 South Division with either a win over USC (9-2, 6-2, ineligible for the postseason), or a loss by Utah. But Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel would much rather have UCLA take care of business themselves rather than rely on outside help.
"Playing 'SC for the championship, that's they way it should be," Neuheisel said on Saturday night. "When I first got back here, that's what I longed for. Not just playing for the championship of L.A., but playing for much bigger stakes."
This is the first year of two divisions in the conference, as previous meetings between UCLA and USC of any importance were for a trip to the Rose Bowl at hand rather than the extra step of the conference championship game. However, this is the first meeting between USC and UCLA with such importance for the Bruins since 1993.
"We find ourselves at 6-5, but more importantly we find ourselves with a chance to win the South Division. There weren't many people in this room that believed that to be possible," Neuheisel said, referring to reporters, after Saturday's win over Colorado. That quote angered Bruins Nation, who had higher expectations for the program:
A lot of people thought we could, and should do just that...First of all, we at Bruins Nation have been saying this since the start of the season. Kirk Herbstreit said it on national television. Looking at our roster, looking at our schedule, and looking at the weak Pac-12 South Division, it was pretty obvious that U.C.L.A. should be contending for the division title. When favorite ASU began faltering along the way, this became even more apparent. To say that not a lot of people thought we would be here is disingenuous. Being a game away from the conference championship should not be seen as a happy coincidence. That quote just shows how passive and uncompetitive we have become.
Maybe a UCLA win on Saturday would change that tune.
Saturday night's 7 p.m. PST game will be televised by Prime Ticket. For more UCLA football news and analysis, be sure to read Bruins Nation. For USC football information, be sure to read Conquest Chronicles.