We’re less than 48 hours away from the 84th installment of the great crosstown rivalry between the Trojans of the University of Southern California and the Bruins of UCLA.
The rancor this week has been greater than usual, with both sides hurling ridicule and vitriol at each other.
After UCLA banned a Trojan Drum Major from stabbing the field, USC took to twitter to get even. The #UCLArequests hashtag has gone viral, providing some of the best entertainment ever on Twitter. (Seriously, go check it out.)
But while the Trojan Knights keep watch over the Victory Bell and Tommy Trojan and the fans participate in ribbing that is not always good natured, the actual athletes on both teams are busy preparing for one of the biggest games of the season.
UCLA is ranked 17th and USC is ranked 18th, marking the first season in 11 years in which the Bruin football team is ranked ahead of the Trojans. Yet the Trojans are still (as of this writing) favored by four points by the bookmakers in Las Vegas.
We all know what happened last year.
USC walked away the victor by a margin of 50-0. (That will NEVER get old for Trojan fans.)
So it stands to reason that the Bruins would be, to put it mildly, “butt hurt” heading into this year’s matchup. After all, UCLA is ranked ahead of USC and the Trojans are still favored.
It’s a case of big brother and the runty, whiny little brother who lives across town with the other parent after a vicious divorce. UCLA, to be sure, is looking to shake off that image this year, but that will be hard to do after over a decade of dominance by the Trojans.
While UCLA owns the longest consecutive winning streak in the crosstown series (eight), USC has beaten the Bruins 12 of the last 13 years. USC owns the series by a margin of 46-28-7. USC also has 11 National Championships in football to UCLA’s one, and the Trojans have six Heisman winners to UCLA’s one.
So you can see how the whole big brother, lil’ brother thing took hold, as well as why it would rankle this year’s crop of Bruins. UCLA enters this matchup in first place in the Pac-12 South with an 8-2 record under first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr. QB Brent Hundley and RB Jonathan Franklin have been two of the team's surprising successes.
Look, I’m a Trojan and I want UCLA to do well—the rivalry is simply more fun when there is a chance that either team could win.
USC, conversely, has not lived up to preseason expectations and enter this year’s Battle of Los Angeles 7-3 behind senior QB Matt Barkley and all-world WR Marqise Lee. UCLA’s defense will not be able to keep up if the Trojan offense is firing on all cylinders. Lee is too explosive. Xavier Grimble is too physical. Robert Woods is too cool under pressure and we cannot discount the senior leadership of Matt Barkley.
This will not be another 50-0 blowout.
This will be an actual game that should have fans of both teams nervous and on the edges of their seats for four quarters.
I can’t lie, I love a 50-0 score. it’s a lot of fun. But the stories and history this rivalry is made of are games where the Trojans win by three or the Bruins win by two.