UCLA – USC Preview: The Crosstown War Renewed


It’s safe to say that this college football season has not gone as planned for UCLA’s Bruins and their crosstown enemies, the Trojans of USC.

In fact, with an overall record of 4-7 (2-6 in the Pacific-10 Conference), 2010 has clearly been a sub-par year in Westwood.

And it hasn’t been much better at Troy, as they are 7-5 (4-4 in the Pac-10) and coming off a devastating loss to Notre Dame.

Unlike many other years, pride, city bragging rights, and the Victory Bell are the only things on the line as the Bruins and Trojans meet for the 80th time in football this Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

A good way to describe this season’s clash is that of one team that can’t win consistently meeting a team that can’t win consistently without cheating.

In the middle of a two-year bowl ban along with the loss of 30 scholarships for major NCAA violations (read: Reggie Bush), USC is seeking to not be swept by their two traditional rivals for the first time in more than a decade.

It’s not completely clear who will start at quarterback for the Trojans, as coach Lane Kiffin is playing that option close to his vest.

Having suffered a high ankle sprain against Oregon State and subsequently sitting out the Notre Dame game, Matt Barkley has been practicing this week as he is desperate to face the Bruins. With his Pac-10 leading 25 touchdown passes, 2,593 yards in the air and a 63% completion rate, Barkley’s return would be a boost for ‘SC.

Although he won’t be 100%, fans should expect Barkley to play as in my experience with this rivalry, if a player can walk, he will be on the field.

Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford have done well at running back for USC.

Having run for 868 yards with nine touchdowns, Tyler will probably be featured as he could go over 1,000 yards with a good day against UCLA. Bradford has likewise been solid in his senior year as he has averaged seven yards a carry.

The receivers have been threats, as despite his dropped pass against the Fighting Irish that would have won the game, Ronald Johnson has eight touchdown catches. Robert Woods, with his team-leading 62 catches, is clearly USC’s freshman of the year.

Jurrell Casey leads the Trojan defense on the defensive line; he has ten tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for a unit that has been vulnerable in the secondary.

On the other side of the coin, the Bruins have some weapons of their own despite their struggles.

Johnathan Franklin has been a standout at running back as he has 1,018 yards, the first UCLA player to reach that mark since 2006. He will definitely be a focus on offense along with Derrick Coleman, who has averaged six yards a carry.

Richard Brehaut has come along at quarterback, particularly following his 321 yard, three touchdown performance at Arizona State. He has thrown for over 1,000 yards, which considering UCLA’s problems with their run oriented “revolver” offense, is a good total.

It’s essential for the Bruins that Brehaut plays, as his arm gives them the ability to stretch the field.

UCLA’s defense will be itching to redeem themselves after giving up over 500 yards and 55 points in their last game. Akeem Ayers and Sean Westgate have been studs at linebacker as they’ve combined for eight sacks and 20 tackles for loss.

No bowl games are at stake, but that does not mean that the motivations and passion won’t be high this Saturday.

Both teams will enter the game angry at having two-game losing streaks, and will dearly want to knock off each other.

Since there is no post season in the offing, neither team has anything to lose. Oftentimes that makes for the best games.

And tensions will run high as there’s a clear animosity between the Bruins and the Trojans; they have gotten into three near-brawls in the past four years, and I don’t expect this game to be any different.

USC may lead the all-time series 44-28-7, but the old cliches about throwing the records out and how anything can happen in a rivalry game definitely applies here.

‘SC has won 10 out of the past 11 meetings with UCLA and is a six point favorite, but I’m looking for the Bruins to come out strong and give the Trojans a real battle.

Whether or not that will be good enough to win remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if UCLA prevails.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at anything that may unfold – that’s what makes rivalries great.