When USC and UCLA renew their long-standing series on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, they’ll do so with both teams being ranked for the fourth time since 1988, and the first time in Pasadena since the Trojans’ 52-21 victory in 2002. It’s become a series of streaks that has lacked uniformity when it comes to stature of the programs, though both of these teams enter the game with youth and bright futures ahead of them.
Home jerseys will be worn as an homage to the past, and the Rose Bowl is sort of on the line this week, giving it the criteria for a traditional USC-UCLA match-up. That raises the question, as asked to our friends within the digital media: Is the rivalry officially back?
Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy), USCFootball.com:
I don’t think the rivalry is “back” because I don’t think it ever went away. For some of the younger USC fans, winning 12 of the last 13 (including 50-0 last season) could make it seem like the series isn’t really competitive. But before that the Bruins rattled off eight straight wins against the Trojans and were very vocal about each and every victory. USC then ran off seven wins before the 13-9 fiasco in the Rose Bowl back in 2006. Now, the Trojans have won five-straight and still have a shot to match the eight in a row streak that meant so much to UCLA fans. Plus, seniors like Matt Barkley have a chance to finish their careers having never lost to their cross-town rival, and send UCLA seniors on their way without ever having beat the Trojans. Every year in this rivalry, from the records to recruiting, there is a lot at stake. It just so happens that this season a shot at the Pac-12 Championship is at stake as well.
Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman), Daily Trojan:
I don’t know if the rivalry went anywhere, but I see what you mean. It certainly has more at stake this time around, yeah, with both UCLA and USC able to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game as the South representative, quite likely against Oregon. To me, what’s particularly unique about this game is what the aftermath will be like. UCLA wins, and suddenly USC is 7-4 on the season, and five or six losses is a realistic possibility — essentially putting the nail in the coffin on its 2012 season. It’d likely also play a big role in recruiting, springing UCLA and Jim Mora forward into the offseason. A win for USC, though, keeps the Trojans’ Rose Bowl dream alive and Lane Kiffin’s head above water. Really, quite a bit on the line this week.
Kyle Kensing(@kensing45), Saturday Blitz:
It’s difficult to say the rivalry is officially back based just on one match-up — bear in mind, the conference championship was technically still at stake in 2005. However, I do think this is the beginning of a true, competitive rivalry. Mora and his staff have done an outstanding job, far exceeding my expectations. He took over a favorable situation in that Rick Neuheisel had recruited well. But what makes Mora and Co. really impressive is how much the team’s improved during the season. USC is still the benchmark in the Pac-12 South, and will remain in that conversation, but the weight of the scholarship sanctions should limit the Trojans from reemerging in that wholly dominant role it once occupied. USC and UCLA are on pretty equal footing this year, and I suspect that will be the case for the immediate future.
Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres), Crystal Ball Run:
Well, the rivalry is “back” for now, in the same way that the Iron Bowl was “back” in 2010 before Auburn fell off the planet the last two years. The point being, that these things are fickle, and college football is a cyclical sport. What I do think is that both teams- for the first time, maybe in my lifetime- are set for long-term staying power atop the polls. Both have young, dynamic coaches, and as we know, they have a mighty large pool of resources and talent to choose from. USC will be fine “big picture” (even if they’re struggling in the here and now) and UCLA will do great things under Jim Mora.
Carlos Sandoval (@CarlosAtFS), Go Joe Bruin:
Yes. And this is mainly because UCLA is under a new head coach with literally the same amount of talent that his predecessor had at his disposal, managing to turn a 6-8 team that looked awful at every turn into an 8-2 team that looks to border juggernaut status. All while USC has proven they’re competent, but not invincible.