When Joe Fauria caught a ball on third and 17 late in the fourth quarter, he didn’t just break the Trojans’ back, he set up the city’s football monopoly to be officially pronounced dead by the mayor, Johnathan Franklin. The senior trotted home with a 29-yard scamper to slit SC’s throats, giving UCLA their second win over the Trojans since 1998.
But while the USC loss cemented the fact that Lane Kiffin is not the right guy for the Men of Troy and it may have ended Matt Barkley’s record-breaking career on a low note, for as painful of a loss as it is to seniors and Robert Woods, losing to the Bruins in such a way, to such a team, is a fantastic thing for the rivalry.
The USC-UCLA rivalry is about divided households, split crowds, home jerseys and bragging rights throughout Los Angeles. Historically, it’s about determining who will go to the Rose Bowl and who the best college football team in the west is.
When either USC or UCLA wins each and every year by such wide margin however, the game loses a lot of luster.
The 2010 game lacked hype, emotion and fanfare, and was ultimately a low point for the rivalry. So much so that the affair with a non-bowl eligible UCLA team hosting a bowl-banned USC team drew just a 0.8 national share despite a national broadcast. For comparison’s sake, last year’s Friday night trip to Colorado had more than double the national audience.
This year, the opposite could be said, as both teams came entered the game with the Rose Bowl indirectly on the line and pregame hype going through the roof. Both teams were relevant and bowl eligible in the same year, just as they should be. And of course the result was the most riveting game since the 90’s, and one that included a painting of the Victory Bell.
All things considered, that makes for a healthy rivalry.
For the Trojans, this wasn’t 13-9. The Bruins didn’t take away a sure national championship, instead they squashed what was revealed to be a far-fetched hope of a happy ending that was never going to happen.
UCLA didn’t replace USC’s stature or knock them off of a perch, they used a solid season to date as a way to raise their game to same long-term level as the Trojans.
It may not have been good for Lane Kiffin’s employment speculation, but that’s just what Los Angeles needed.