Whether strolling Trousdale Parkway as the shimmering duct tape wrapped around Tommy Trojan illuminates Alumni Park or stepping out of Ackerman Student Union to a tarp draped over the Bruin Bear that reads “hibernation,” these preventative steps signal only one thing.
It’s the “Battle of LA.”
In recent years, amidst conference struggles, coaching changes, and vacated wins, the rivalry has lost a bit of its luster. USC has all but dominated the vaunted matchup since UCLA LB Eric McNeil’s tip and diving INT knocked them out of the 2006 BCS Championship game, culminating in a 50-0 runaway victory last season at the Coliseum on six TD passes from Matt Barkley, a feat he matched twice this year. With Barkley, Lee, and Woods all returning, USC aspired to another national championship and an undefeated season. The pre-season “on paper” debate appeared lopsided.
Luckily, the games still have to be played.
The 2012 Bruins are by no means the other LA team, leading their neighbors in the AP Poll and ever so slightly in the Pac-12 South. #17 UCLA and #18 USC stand before each other for a chance to face either #13 Stanford or #2 Oregon for the Pac-12 Championship on November 30th.
The Trojans (7-3) and Bruins (8-2) are almost mirror images in record, on offense, averaging 36.9 and 37.7 points per game, and on defense, allowing 23.5 and 24.7 point per game, respectively. The Bruins hold the slight edge in Pasadena, with 8 wins to 7 losses since these teams stopped sharing the Coliseum and started meeting at the Rose Bowl in 1982.
The Trojans offense escaped a turnover laden first half last Saturday vs. ASU before Curtis McNeal ran for two scores and caught a TD en route to 24 consecutive points in the second half and a 38-17 victory. UCLA, on the other hand, ran out to a 30-point, 37-7 first half lead on the arm of Brett Hundley, holding off WSU’s 29-point second half explosion for a 44-36 win and the lead in the South. With so much at stake, expect coaches Kiffin and Mora to agree on establishing a ground game before letting the ol’ pigskin fly around the field, even with Marquise Lee and Joseph Fauria poised for post-season accolades.
When these long-time rivals collide on Saturday for the 82nd time on national television for a purpose other than bragging rights or ringing the Victory Bell for the year, expect a fight, maybe even a “Conquest.”