The USC Trojans (7-5, 4-4 Pac-10) will take on the UCLA Bruins (4-7, 2-6 Pac-10) in the Rose Bowl on Saturday for the coveted “Victory Bell.” For the first time since 2000, both teams are unranked and for the first time since the 80's that both teams will not be playing in a Bowl game.
But don't think for a minute that this game has no importance to the coaches, to the players and especially to the fans.
THERE IS PLENTY TO PLAY FOR:
City Woofing Rights - There is some serious bragging that goes on between schools. It doesn't stop at football, but covers basketball, baseball, water polo, soccer and even quiddich (UCLA beat USC). It might not stop at football, but football is definitely where it starts.
Save a Season - For UCLA, the thoughts of a dismal season can evaporate with a win over USC. It would be a feather in the cap of Coach Rick Neuheisel and it could give him another year or so to figure things out.
Salvage Your Name - For USC, Lane Kiffin has already said that a win against UCLA wouldn't make this season a success. However, a loss combined with a streak-killing loss against Notre Dame could solidify this Trojan team in infamy.
City Recruiting - With the Trojans losing 10 scholarships each year, they can't afford to miss on any recruits. Saying that, they must close the door on any top-level recruits coming out of LA. For UCLA, they have the opportunity to use the "we aren't on probation" line and the "we are heading in the right direction whereas the Trojans are stuck in neutral."
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Losing to Your Rival Leaves a Bad Taste in Your Mouth - It is the same taste you have after waking up from a long night of drinking and smoking, but this taste stays with you until next season. There is no other game to ease that pain. Both teams want to finish their seasons on a high note.
BOTH TEAMS WOULD LIKE TO FORGET LAST WEEK:
Review: UCLA is coming off a devastating loss to Arizona State. The Bruins jumped out to a 17-point first quarter lead only to see it evaporate along with their hopes of a post-season Bowl game. The Trojans lost to rival Notre Dame for the first time in nine games. USC's defense couldn't stop a last minute drive and the offense had a golden opportunity slip through their hands.
THREE KEYS FOR A BRUINS VICTORY:
Slow Down the Game - The Trojans can no longer beat teams defensively, so the Bruins must keep the deadly Trojan offense off the field. In order to control the ball, the Bruins have to convert on third downs better than their season average of 35 percent. The Trojans' defense is ranked 104th in the nation in stopping third downs. Ball control is a must.
Defensive Playmakers Steal the Spotlight - The Bruins' playmakers are on the defensive side of the ball and must make big plays against the Trojans offense. UCLA needs their defense to play like they did against Texas and not like they did against Kansas State, Stanford, Arizona State and Oregon. When the Bruins' defense is playing fast and making plays, UCLA is a tough team to beat.
Be Consistent for a Complete Game - The problem for UCLA all season is that they never know what team is going to show up. Worst of all, it isn't just game-to-game inconsistencies; it's also quarter-to-quarter. The Bruins can't afford to take any plays off against USC if they want to keep it close and give themselves a chance to win.
THREE KEYS FOR A TROJANS VICTORY:
The Trojans Must Tackle - The Trojans do not have to worry about the Bruins hurting them through the air, which is a good thing for USC since it is 112th in the NCAA in defending the pass. However, at times during the season, the Trojans have failed to make the tackle and have allowed running backs like LaMichael James, Jacquizz Rodgers, Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes. When the Trojans allow a 100-yard rusher, they lose.
The Trojans Put Points on the Board - USC has a deadly offense. They have outstanding running backs and wide receivers; and a quarterback who can facilitate the offense. The Trojans should look to open up the offense even more. If they Trojans score 35, they will beat the Bruins who have only scored more than 35 one time. Defense might win championships but in this rivalry game, offense will be the key for the Trojans.
The Trojans Must Make the Bruins a Passing Team - The Trojans can accomplish this key in two ways. First, dare the Bruins to run by playing their receivers man-on-man and stacking the box to stop the run. Secondly, If the Trojans can score early and often they can force the Bruins into a passing team. As bad as the secondary is for the Trojans the Bruins passing attack might be worse.
WHERE THE TEAMS RANK IN THE NCAA
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
This game doesn't need more fuel added to the fire. Come on, it's a rivalry game. It is for bragging rights in the city and there is no other LA rivalry that rivals it. Not Dodgers - Angels. Not Clippers - Lakers. Not Kings - Ducks. Not Rams - Raiders. Not Paris - Lohan. None. This is the cream of the crop for LA rivalries. However (and please elongate that word as much as you can), here is a little something to remember and put on that bulletin board:
To USC - "The football monopoly in Los Angeles is officially over." Granted, Neuheisel could actually be right in this statement but the Bruins wanted to be the ones who ended it; not the NCAA. The Trojans have a chance to keep the dynasty alive at least for another year.
To UCLA - With the game well in hand last year, Pete Carroll's Trojans executed a play-action pass and nearly started a riot. The debate raged about whether that was in poor taste, the result remained; a touchdown when a kneel down would suffice. Don't think the Bruin fans forgot about that no matter who is calling the plays now for the cardinal and gold.
MR. STAT MAN
USC has won 10 out of the last 11 games against the Bruins, but the Trojans had to vacate the 2004 and 2005 victories due to NCAA penalty. The Trojans have won the last three games.
WHAT IS THE VICTORY BELL:
The winner of the annual USC-UCLA football game gets yearlong possession of the Victory Bell, a 295-pound bell off a freight locomotive, and full-artistic license on what the color should be.
Originally given to UCLA in 1939 as a gift from the UCLA Alumni Association, several USC students took the bell in 1941 and hid it in a variety of locations for more than a year. A controversy ensued and school administrators had to intercede.
In 1942, the bell resurfaced and, by agreement, became the trophy given to the game’s winner. However, tradition calls for the Victory Bell to spend most of the year in storage --or rather, in hiding.
How do the Bruins and the Trojans stack up against each other? Check out an earlier article detailing a "Head-to-Head Comparison" of the bitter rivals.
BRUINS' AND TROJANS' FANS, GET INVOLVED
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UCLA vs. USC (Rose Bowl) 7:30 p.m. Kickoff