Anything can happen, as we saw last year rivalry games can be tricky the better team doesn't always win but that is what makes rivalries fun, or frustrating depending on which side of the field you are on.
This year is no different with SC shooting for another Pac-10 Title and a Rose Bowl bid while ucla tries to figure to what direction they are heading. Outside of the normal trash talk that you would expect from our rivals they seem to think we aren't that big a deal and seem to think that we can easily be put off our game. I'm not quite sure what games they have been watching but they clearly think that this is the same team we had last year.
Some across seem to think that we are overrated and that they could "hit us on the chin" and we would fold like a two-dollar suitcase. I would be careful of that analogy because ucla did get hit on the chin and they did fold against Utah and Notre Dame. Classless loudmouths like Bruce Davis and Brandon Breazell may talk a good game but they have had a hard time backing it up. SC had their own come to Jesus moment against Stanford but at least we could say the QB was injured and was let down by the OC. I'm not sure with Dixon that anyone was going to beat Oregon and now that he is out for the season we see just how one dimensional they are. Simply returning 20 starters isn't enough; those players need to execute and ucla has consistently under achieved under Karl Dorrell.
I have always been leery of rivalry games but after last season it's easy to be a little nervous and I won't deny that I am a little nervous but I also feel very comfortable in how USC will perform today. As was the case last year ucla has nothing to play for, they may not even get to a bowl game, their coach is sure to be fired and some in their fan base are apathetic regardless of today's outcome. We may be overrated in our rival's eyes but you can make no argument that SC hasn't been more consistent and hasn't been more relevant in college football over the past 5-6 yeas than ucla would be in 10-20 years. The fact is while this rivalry has produced some great games over the years it is still just a regional rivalry. When USC was going through their down years ucla still couldn't rise to the top of the college football mountain. They got close for a short stretch under Toledo but under Terry Donahue the level of expectations were actually lowered.
Today is about the here and now.
I won't bore you with game breakdowns and such as we all know where both teams strengths and weaknesses are. But there are a few things to watch for:
- By air, UCLA must stop Trojans tight end Fred Davis, who has 49 receptions for six touchdowns and averages 15.4 yards a catch. With no Dwayne Jarrett or Steve Smith in the receiving corps, the senior has served as Booty's go-to target and has boosted his NFL stock with displays of strength and athleticism after the catch.
- By ground, USC must stop Bruins running back Chris Markey, who rushed for 91 yards in 30 carries last week against Oregon. Markey had only 54 yards in 23 carries the previous four games, but he appears to be healthy after being slowed by an ankle sprain and turf toe.
- UCLA's kickoff return team vs. USC's coverage -- One week after Arizona State's Rudy Burgess burned the Trojans with a 98-yard touchdown return, USC faces the prospect of trying to contain Matthew Slater, who has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. And Slater would have four had officials not penalized the Bruins for throwing a forward pass on a trick play against Oregon. Slater ranks fifth nationally, averaging 30.9 yards a return.
- Bruce Davis, defensive end, UCLA: He has quickness, savvy and a motor that never stops. He also has a team-best 9 1/2 sacks.
- Rey Maualuga, linebacker, USC: Others have more tackles and more sacks, but no Trojans defender is regarded with more fear and is capable of more carnage.
- Taylor Mays, strong safety, USC: The 6-foot-4 sophomore is built like a linebacker or defensive end -- and hits like one.
- Christian Taylor, linebacker, UCLA: The Bruins' scheme makes their safeties the leading tacklers, but Taylor is third and also has 12 1/2 tackles for losses in 10 games.
How these things go is how the game will go. It will come down to who wants it more, this won't be another 66-19 blowout but it won't be 13-9 either. No, I think SC will win this game much like I thought they would last year but this year the prize is different and the motivation is different. This game means more to us than it does to them as some over there actually hope their team loses in order to make sure that Dorrell is fired. I WILL NEVER ROOT AGAINST MY TEAM JUST TO BE RID OF THE COACH.
USC has a chance to erase some of the sting from the Stanford loss today. I am really only concerned about a win, all the other stuff is immaterial to me. Win and we're in, I will worry about our next opponent later right now I only care about beating ucla.