Monday, October 16, 2017
A Rivalry It’s Not
By Brian W. Carter (Staff Writer)
Published December 4, 2008

If you think Saturday's game between USC and UCLA at the Rose Bowl won't be memorable considering the states of both programs, think again.

It'll be remembered as the day the Trojan defense "Crafted" a massacre of epic proportions, named in honor of the beatdown they will lay on Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft and that porous offensive line.

Considering the Trojans only allowed 91 yards of offense against Notre Dame, imagine how many they'll allow against a team ranked 37 slots lower nationally in total offense.

Welcome to the week formerly known as Rivalry Week. Where Bruins and Trojans trade pre-game barbs but unfortunately witness a one-sided game.

Meet your participants. No. 4-ranked USC at 10-1 (7-1 in conference), fresh off of their 38-3 thrashing of Notre Dame, and UCLA at 4-7 (3-5), fresh from their 34-9 thrashing at the hands of Arizona.

For some more perspective, the Bruins have only scored one touchdown in their previous three games and the Trojans have scored in all but one quarter of the previous three games?

It's no secret that UCLA is going through one of its worst offensive seasons while USC has been playing with a sense of urgency since losing to Oregon State in September.

That's why many are taking their guesses at how big the final score will be. But if recent history is any indication, it will be by a comfortable margin.

Since 1999, the Men of Troy have owned this series, going 8-1. Only twice have both teams been ranked and in those games, USC won by a combined score of 118-40.

Of course, skeptics will say that the last two games at the Rose Bowl have been far closer contests.

USC barely escaped with a 29-24 victory in 2004 en route to their national title and of course, everyone remembers the 2006 game. A 13-9 upset that killed the Trojans' national title hopes and spared then-head coach Karl Dorrell from the chopping block for one more year.

So what does that mean with this year's battle in Pasadena? Perhaps inspired play from the Sons of Westwood, especially the seniors in their final home game, but that can only take you so far.

For this series to once again be a true rivalry, the games need not be so one-sided. Even when UCLA ran off their eight-game winning streak in the series from 1991-98, all but two of the games were within single digits.

Rich tradition aside, the games have always meant something when both teams had successful years. Remember in 2005 when USC came in undefeated (11-0) at No.1 and the Bruins were, at 9-1, ranked No. 11?

Sure the game may have been a letdown – a 66-19 victory that would be the last of the Reggie Bush-Matt Leinart era – but the pre-game excitement was appropriate for two teams playing like two of the best in the country.

Just ask Big 12 fans how much those rivalry games matter this year with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State all ranked in the Top 15 most of the year.

Rivalries are always better when both teams are constantly playing their best or when the series is competitive. It's like two brothers competing for family supremacy.

Lately? It's felt like big brother meets little brother and we all know what happens in that battle.

Perhaps it will be better in Year 2 or 3 of the Rick Neuheisel-Norm Chow era when the team is more familiar with their styles and the offense will match the team's defensive intensity.

One can only hope so.

So Rose Bowl aspirations aside for USC, who merely need to win to clinch their fourth consecutive New Year's appearance in Pasadena, this game will be a reminder that it takes two to make a rivalry great.

And right now, there is only one worthy participant in the Battle of Los Angeles.

Categories: Football

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