Competing against your opponent to ultimately achieve your goal of winning the next step or result is what sports is about. It’s ‘juicier’ when that opponent is your archrival, an opponent you despise.
It’s a whole other level of competing because it is the team with the star on the calendar, a game where you must utilize all your skills and elements of your game, because your opponent is wanting to beat you the same way you do.
And that’s what makes this USC-UCLA rivalry great. It’s a crosstown rivalry between two Los Angeles schools. Bear vs. Soldier. Blue vs. Cardinal. A four-year senior pro-style quarterback against a true freshman mobile quarterback.
In the visiting side, the USC Trojans will wear their home jerseys to the Rose Bowl, ready to repeat the murdering that took place last season at the Coliseum, where the Trojans shut out the Bruins 50-0.
But don’t expect the UCLA Bruins (8-2, 4-2) to forget that night. Led by new head coach Jim Mora and quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA birthed a stronger, faster team when Mora took the podium to announce his reign at UCLA.
Fans of both teams always hassle eachother this time of year hoping to grab bragging rights, but this year is especially different.
UCLA is ranked higher than USC.
But don’t tell that fact to USC fans, because they will rebuttal you that USC has beaten UCLA in 12 of the last 13 years. But that lone loss that USC suffered in 2006 prevented the Trojans from going to the BCS Championship Game, adding fuel to this great rivalry.
For USC to win, the Trojans must find a way to stop a no-huddle team with a mobile quarterback. The Arizona Wildcats and Oregon Ducks proved to be USC’s Achilies heel, and USC has had no answer for high-snap teams. Will defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin have a new handle on his play-chart? His schemes have not been effective.
For the Bruins, they need Brett Hundley continue to be the star he’s been all season long, as well as speedy running back, Jonathan Franklin. Both have devastated opposing defenses with Mora’s mix-matching plays making the defense confused on each snap of the ball. The Trojans need to counter with their speedy defense, and will try to find the right read on UCLA’s complex offense.
This will be USC’s second toughest opponent of the season, and although UCLA is built for a big bowl game in the late season, they do have large chinks in their armor.
UCLA is 108th in the nation in passing defense. USC is 17th in the nation in passing offense.
Look for the Trojans to utilize their star wideouts I large doses. UCLA has Hundley, but the Trojans have the best college football player in the nation in Marqise Lee.
Will Mora’s defense improve from the 457 receiving yards they allowed against the Washington State Cougars in last week’s game? You have to think Lee and Robert Woods will answer that question for the Bruins with a ‘no’.
Get ready to watch smash mouth football, as both of these teams will try to set the tempo in the trenches. Both teams love balance on the offense, but the Bruins have more strength in their running game led by Franklin. The senior was looking strong in the Heisman race early before Oregon’s Kenjon Barner decided to finish it two weeks ago at USC. But his numbers are strong, averaging 6.4 rushing yards an attempt and 1,270 total yards on the ground.
Both teams will be ready to chest bump eachother more than usual, brag about a stop louder than usual, and celebrate on the sidelines after a touchdown crazier than usual?
Who has the edge at the Rose Bowl on Saturday? My gut says USC, but logic says UCLA.
USC 34, UCLA 31