The stakes are pretty low within the 91st Crosstown Showdown by the same old requirements of Los Angeles’ greatest rivalry recreation.
UCLA has already secured bowl eligibility for the primary time below coach Chip Kelly, however the Bruins’ file (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) and their latest play aren’t notably inspiring.
Southern California (4-5, 3-4) continues to be mired in its season of limbo, happening two months with out a everlasting head coach and with a powerful probability of lacking out on a bowl recreation.
However the pleasure is of course inextinguishable when two groups separated by 13 miles of freeways meet with each participant carrying their coloured house jerseys. Dozens of gamers on each groups have been highschool teammates or grew up collectively within the sprawling Los Angeles metroplex, and the familiarity breeds anticipation, not contempt.
“All people desires to beat their rival and have these bragging rights,” UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson mentioned. “So I feel there’s just a little extra ardour and just a little extra juice and just a little extra power.”
When the Bruins go to the Trojans on the Coliseum on Saturday, the disappointments of the present season will probably be overshadowed by the possibility to elevate the Victory Bell.
“Relating to UCLA, man, we at all times have plenty of juice,” USC linebacker Drake Jackson mentioned. “We’re prepared simply to get on the market. … Simply let ‘em speak. See ’em after we see ’em.”
Whereas neither staff is taking part in for a convention title and even an impressive season, important stakes stay. The Bruins are hoping to play their manner into an upper-tier bowl recreation that doubtless would guarantee one other season for Kelly, whereas the Trojans may desperately use this win to maintain them away from one of many worst data on this West Coast powerhouse’s historical past.
It’s notably significant for a lot of UCLA gamers who weren’t round for the Bruins’ final win over the Trojans in 2018. Thompson-Robinson was a freshman then, however he barely performed in that victory earlier than dropping the final two showdowns as UCLA’s starter.
“It’s undoubtedly been a recreation I had circled on my calendar, primarily as a result of it’s a rivalry,” UCLA senior cornerback Qwuantrezz Knight mentioned. “Each child on this program seems to be ahead to that recreation. It’s for every thing. It’s for bragging rights. It’s for who runs the town.
USC freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart is making his first profession begin rather than Kedon Slovis, who beat UCLA in every of his first two pictures on the rivalry. Slovis is out with a lower-leg damage that didn’t heal even with additional break day final week because of the postponement of the Trojans’ recreation at California.
Slovis twice beat the Bruins with aptitude, setting the single-game college file with 515 yards passing as a freshman in 2019 earlier than throwing a last-minute TD cross to win it final yr. Dart is new to the rivalry, however he will get it now.
“I actually simply didn’t perceive how intense the rivalry was,” Dart mentioned. “Coming from Utah, I wasn’t as conscious of the rivalry rising up, however now I’ve seen it. Feelings run actually excessive. It’s for the town.”
An efficient speeding assault has been a bellwether for the Bruins this season: UCLA has rushed for not less than 200 yards in all six of its victories. USC’s protection is in the midst of the pack at stopping the run, however is yielding practically 400 whole yards per recreation.
TROJANS ON TOP
UCLA has received simply 5 of the final 22 editions of the Crosstown Showdown since 1999, though 4 of these wins occurred up to now 9 years. Extra concerningly for the Bruins, they’ve only one victory on the Coliseum of their final 11 visits.
USC leads the rivalry 51-32-7 total, and the Trojans have solely misplaced 13 instances to unranked UCLA groups. The Trojans are even 6-4-1 after they come into the showdown with a file below .500.
Slovis isn’t the one USC star lacking this showdown: Star receiver Drake London is out for the yr with a damaged ankle, and the Trojans are nonetheless engaged on changing his unparalleled manufacturing.
Gary Bryant Jr. stepped into the beginning lineup after London went down, and Kyle Ford has stepped up. Tight finish Michael Trigg is also again in apply this week after lacking three video games with an damage.
Regardless of the Trojans do with Dart and his receivers, Kelly believes UCLA may be prepared.
“The way in which they function in that offense is actually (they see) what you categorical defensively after which they counter what you’re making an attempt to counter,” Kelly mentioned. “Should you’re going to pack the field, their system is that they’re going to throw it. However in case you again off of them, you play it actually, actually free, then they’re going to run it.”
Dart apart, a lot of the USC roster has fond recollections of final season’s showdown. The Trojans’ 43-38 victory in a thriller at an empty Rose Bowl included an distinctive particular person effort on a 65-yard landing by London, and it was capped by Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 8-yard TD catch with 16 seconds left.
“I keep in mind that entire recreation vividly, man,” USC cornerback Chris Steele mentioned. “That was undoubtedly, undoubtedly an important recreation. Most likely one among my favourite video games as a Trojan, so I simply sit up for stacking them.”
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