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USC Hopes To Regain Dominance In UCLA Rivalry

Jodee Sullivan |
November 19, 2014 | 12:02 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Nelson Agholor and the Trojan offense ned a hot start at the Rose Bowl Saturday night. (Neon Tommy)
Nelson Agholor and the Trojan offense ned a hot start at the Rose Bowl Saturday night. (Neon Tommy)
There’s always a special atmosphere around campus during Rivalry Week. Whether it’s in everyone’s mood, it’s in the crisp, cool weather, or it’s just something in the air, Rivalry Week is just different. 

And come Saturday, all eyes will be set to watch No. 24 USC (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) take on No. 11 UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) at the Rose Bowl in a game that could determine the Pac-12 South.

Historically, this game could possibly find itself placed alongside the likes of the 1967 “Game of the Century” when No. 4 USC beat No. 1 UCLA 21-20 with the conference and national championship on the line. 

Or even with the 2005 game when No. 1 USC beat No. 11 UCLA 66-19 at the Coliseum to get to the 2006 Rose Bowl game (even though the win was eventually vacated by the NCAA sanctions).

Who could forget the 2011 game? USC rooted the Pac-12 Champions (the Trojans couldn’t win because of sanctions) 50-0 at the Coliseum, the largest margin of victory since the 1930 game, a 52-0 Trojan victory. (The overall largest margin was the first game of the rivalry in 1929 when USC won 76-0.)

Or Saturday could unfold like the 1996 game when UCLA rallied in the fourth to overcome a 17-point deficient and win 48-41 in overtime at the Rose Bowl. 

Overall, USC has led for the rivalry’s entirety, which is currently 44-30-7 - 46-30-7 without the NCAA sanctions - but UCLA has been hot of late, winning the last two.

SEE ALSO: Trojans Begin Preparation For Crosstown Rivalry Game At UCLA

While the up-for-grabs Pac-12 South title may be the biggest talking point surrounding this game, the current USC squad definitely has something to prove heading into the Rose Bowl Saturday night. 

Redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler is looking to bounce back from last year’s 35-14 loss and continue to prove that he is a dominant quarterback. Playing on prime time, Kessler can showcase his talents on a national stage. A lot of talk has gone on about how he’s an underrated quarterback, but this will be his time to prove he deserves attention.

The Rose Bowl will be packed with fans from both schools. (James Santelli/Neon Tommy)
The Rose Bowl will be packed with fans from both schools. (James Santelli/Neon Tommy)
Saturday’s game will also be the first for head coach Steve Sarkisian. With a win against the Bruins—falling in line with both Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin—Sarkisian could eliminate the majority of the criticism that he faced at the beginning of the season. Additionally, a win against UCLA will set the tone for Sarkisian’s tenure here at USC. 

From the Bruins’ perspective, both head coach Jim Mora and redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley are undefeated against USC since becoming the Bruins’ coach and starter, respectively, in the 2012 season.

For the Trojans to be victorious and take home the victory bell and city-wide bragging rights, they will need true freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith—who turns 18 on Saturday—redshirt junior running back Javorius “Buck” Allen and junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor to continue their offensive dominance from the last couple USC victories. They will need to act quickly and get up early on the Bruins’ defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore safety Su’a Cravens, junior defensive end Leonard Williams, true freshman cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and senior inside linebacker Hayes Pullard to collectively pressure UCLA’s offense. If the Trojan defense can shut down redshirt sophomore running back Paul Perkins and limit Hundley’s array of wide receivers, then they should be able to keep the score line in USC’s favor. 

If all goes well, the Trojans will leave the Rose Bowl with the victory bell in tow, prove that SC really runs LA and restore order to this heated rivalry. 

Reach Staff Reporter Jodee Sullivan here and on Twitter here.



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