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UCLA BRUINS (2-8) VS USC TROJANS (5-5)
DAY & DATE: Saturday, November 17, 2018
PLACE: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
TIME: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Channel 11
AT STAKE BESIDES BRAGGING RIGHTS AND THE VICTORY BELL: Bowl eligibility for USC as the Trojans are one win short
ALL-TIME SERIES: Trojans lead 47-31-7 (USC vacated wins in 2004 and 2005 due to NCAA sanctions)
FIRST GAME: 1929, Trojans won 76-0
MOST RECENT GAME: 2017, Trojans won 28-23
LAST UCLA WIN: 2014, Bruins won 38-20
LONGEST WIN STREAKS:
- UCLA – Eight straight from 1991-1998
- USC – Seven straight from 1999-2005 (’03 & 04 wins vacated)
LINE: USC favored by three and a half points
UCLA Paul Perkins (#24) gets past USC’s Su’a Cravens (#21) during the Bruins’ last win over the Trojans in 2014. Photo courtesy of usatoday.com
HERE IT IS UCLA AND USC STUDENTS, FACULTY, ALUMNI AND FANS!
HERE’S HOW I SEE THINGS GOING DOWN AT THE ROSE BOWL THIS COMING SATURDAY AFTERNOON:
First of all, both teams will come out charged and pumped.
For UCLA, it’s a golden opportunity for them to salvage something from what has been arguably their worst season in their approaching 100-year existence.
What better way to do so than beating your bitter crosstown rival and getting that Victory Bell painted blue again?
As for ‘SC, I honestly think they have a bit more to play for, which will make them a bit more desperate.
The fact that a win over the Bruins will give those Trojans six wins, bowl eligibility, and – despite all the rumors – possibly save coach Clay Helton’s job,
Or at least give him a “stay of execution”, so to speak,
Is motivation enough for them.
It’s how I would feel if I were part of the Trojan Family as a student, alum, or fan.
To put it bluntly, both of SoCal’s college football teams have been playing sub-par, sloppy football in 2018.
A combined record of 7-13, the most combined losses in rivalry history, certainly attests to that.
UCLA, with the exception of Cal and maybe Washington and Arizona, has particularly been playing sloppy football all season, chock full of dropped passes, penalties, missed blocks and tackles and various other stupid mistakes that has cost them at least half of their eight losses.
If they had played decently, they would have likely beaten Cincinnati, Fresno State, Colorado, and Arizona State.
Heck, they could have beaten ‘SC last year if not for Andre James’ holding penalty that cost the Bolo Olorunfumni a touchdown, as well as Josh Rosen’s interception in the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Trojans’ sloppiness has surfaced of late with losses to Arizona State and Cal at home the last two times they took the field, blowing leads (against Cal in particular), added by a lack of discipline as illustrated by Iman Marshall’s unsportsmanlike conduct at the Cal sideline, earning him a flag and ultimately giving the Golden Bears a chance at the game.
Which has happened a little too much for the Trojan faithful’s taste.
Highlights from the last time UCLA beat USC in football – 38-20 in 2014. Courtesy of YouTube (click on the link)
So what does all this mean for those two rivals on Saturday?
As the Bruins offense under graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight had a good day in Tempe against ASU last week – with the exception of that last possession,
Combined with the fact that unlike USC’s true freshman quarterback JT Daniels – with all due respect, as his overall numbers have been good – Speight has the experience as coming from Michigan, he has been in games with bitter rivals in Michigan State and especially Ohio State,
Which incidentally is a rivalry that many consider bigger than UCLA vs USC,
That actually gives Speight the advantage over Daniels, as he’s faced VERY hostile Spartan and (especially) Buckeye fans.
And that means that I see the Bruins doing good things and scoring against the Trojan defense – provided that the offensive line does its job and doesn’t make any mistakes.
In order for UCLA’s MVP (in my book), running back Joshua Kelley, to do the damage that he has done all year, that line must have an excellent day.
And you know what? I’m confident enough that that line will be good enough for Kelley to get at least 100 yards.
The Trojan offense will probably feature the receivers like Amon-Ra St. Brown a little more than usual, though they’ll definitely start by establishing the run with Aca’Cedric Ware or whoever else lines up behind Daniels.
I see fullback Vavae Malapeai getting the ball a bit more, to try to bull past a still-maligned UCLA front seven that continues to tackle like a wet noodle at times.
OK, here’s the bottom line:
My heart – the part of me that’s been a diehard member of Bruin Nation for thirty years – says that the Bruins will somehow play the way they did in Berkeley and while it won’t be a 37-7 blowout, the score will be:
* UCLA 34 – USC 28 *
The part of me that’s impartial, objective, realistic, and just plain honest in a sometimes brutal way with regards to my Bruin fandom says that ‘SC’s desperation to get that sixth win – they definitely won’t get it against an undefeated, third-ranked and wholly superior Notre Dame team on Thanksgiving weekend,
Combined with my gut feeling that although UCLA will come out extremely hard and play with a pronounced effort that I will be glad to see, giving them a chance at taking back the Victory Bell,
It won’t stop them from making the costly mistakes that they’ve been making since (really!) spring practice, as teams that keep playing erratic football at inopportune times usually don’t suddenly play perfect football one day – with the exception of Cal in the Bruins’ case, of course,
Which, much like last season at the Coliseum, will ultimately cost the Bruins this time.
Which leads me to this prediction from my head as opposed to my heart:
* USC 37 – UCLA 31 *
As a journalist with integrity and someone who will never be a cheerleader-like homer with regards to any team I’m a fan of, I’m going to go with the impartial and objective part of me and go with the second prediction;
A prediction that, with regret, I know my fellow members of Bruin Nation will not like…
USC TROJANS – 37
UCLA BRUINS – 31
It should go without saying that as a UCLA alum and fan, I sincerely hope I am wrong in what I just predicted.
And if that football team of my alma mater’s does indeed prove me wrong on Saturday, I promise that no one will be happier than me.
AS PAR FOR THE COURSE OF THIS ANNUAL CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE, WE’RE NOT DONE YET!
BE SURE TO READ MY ANALYSIS OF THE 88th FOOTBALL CLASH BETWEEN THE BRUINS AND TROJANS – WHAT I SAW WERE THE KEYS TO THE GAME AS I WILL BE THERE – WHICH WILL APPEAR ON THIS BLOG ON MONDAY!