UCLA at USC: The battle for Los Angeles
After a string of eight consecutive losses, USC has rebounded to win nine of ten against their crosstown rivals. The numbers reflect a power shift, with a sleeping giant rising from the mat to retake the city of Los Angeles, and the temporary owners staggered into a state of dormancy.
Pete Carroll is 7-1 in the series, often plowing his way through UCLA to claim conference championships, BCS bowl births, and national titles. But even with success far outweighing failure, the lone blemish of 2006 is etched in memory, as it denied his Trojans a championship game appearance.
On the eve of 79th meeting between the two schools, there are questions surrounding both programs. Southern California appears more vulnerable than in years past, and UCLA would like nothing more than to kick a big dog while it’s down. The Bruins have displayed a late season surge, and Saturday will be a greater indicator of whether the gap between themselves and their neighbor has been closed or if the sudden “Westwood wonders” are merely blowing smoke.
The Bruins enter this game riding a three game win streak, which is an obvious confidence builder come Saturday. But taking a realistic approach, UCLA hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent all season. The three game streak, which also marks the only victories in conference play, came against Washington, Washington State, and Arizona State. All three are Pac 10 bottom dwellers. Each will finish the year with losing records.
The Trojans had two weeks to prepare, having the luxury of a bye last weekend, after suffering one of the most humiliating losses in school history. The time off didn’t provide just a much needed rest or extra practice and film study, it has allowed healthy bodies to return to the field. Damian Williams will return for the crosstown showdown, after sitting out the Stanford loss with a high ankle sprain. Anthony McCoy, also suffering the lingering effects of the same injury, should have more of an offensive presence on Saturday.
X-Factors: With UCLA and USC, you have two of the worst teams in the country on third down. USC is ranked 100th on third down conversions, and UCLA 99th. The team able to overcome the struggles on Saturday will be the one controlling the clock and field position. UCLA’s Brian Price can play a significant role in limiting short yardage situations, if the talented defensive tackle is able to negate both the Trojans rushing attack and Barkley’s ability to step up in the pocket on passing downs.
Prediction: USC 28, UCLA 7
All Time Series: USC leads 43-28-7
Streak: USC has won 2
Last Meeting: USC 28, UCLA 7 (Pasadena, CA)