USC vs. UCLA: Brett Hundley Hopes To Complete UCLA's Return To Relevancy Against Matt Barkley's Trojans
They meet again, this time in the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon. It’ll be the 82nd edition between the two. Unfortunately, it’s been a decade since the Southern California-UCLA college football matchup started drifting away rivalry to one-sided domination.
Following a couple relatively competitive contests won by the Trojans to bridge millenniums, Pete Carroll’s arrival in 2001 as USC head coach signaled the end of any competition between the two, on the field or off. From blowout victories to Heisman Trophy winners to enticing fans and blue-chip recruits alike, the Cardinal-colored cross-town rival has had it all over the Bruins.
UCLA managed to scratch out a 13-9 decision in 2006, but that’s the only “gotcha” it can claim against USC since the 1990s. In the interim, the Trojans re-emerged as a national power and made Los Angeles pretty much all its own.
Not even the energy, enthusiasm and verbal challenges by Rick Neuheisel upon his return to UCLA as coach of his alma mater managed to register a blip on the relevance screen.
It’s amazing. The top dog in the Southeastern Conference – heck, the top dog in the entire country – gets its comeuppance one week and suddenly a nation of college football followers receives a reprieve from getting hit over the head with the reality that the SEC is helmet and shoulders above every other circuit.
In short, the best league this side of Sunday play won’t be taking centerstage for a weekend. It’s slate is pretty paltry. In its top-billing place, well, it ain’t much more than paltry, either.
But at least a pair of Pac-12 powerhouses will square off Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., when No. 2 Oregon (10-0, 7-0 conference) hosts No. 13 Stanford (8-2, 6-1). That, clearly, is the highlight game of Week 12 in the 2012 campaign.
It may, however, not be the best contest between quality opponents. Look for that “honor” to fall to Big East frontrunner Rutgers – hey, the 22nd-ranked Scarlet Knights are 8-1, 4-0 in the conference, and tough as nails across the board – facing underrated and unranked, but dangerous Cincinnati. The host Bearcats are 7-2 (3-1 Big East) and very easily could be unbeaten at this point, if not for some sloppy ballhanding.
It’s the catch-phrase for every quarterback controversy in the free world, or wherever NFL stakes have been firmly planted: so and so gives us the best chance to win.
Insert whatever rationale or preference you like, shake it up and serve and you can make as much sense as the rocket scientists left in charge to decide just which “best chance” will be the choice.
Funny thing is, as tensions mount and debates rage in pro-football cities across the nation, it seems like an older standby holds true even more: whoever wins the turnover battle comes out on top.
Are we talking 100 percent, fool-proof lock? No, exceptions always exist.
But it’s been pretty apparent most Sundays this fall that the giveaway-takeaway factor has, well, factored greatly in the outcomes of most games.
This past weekend, the evidence was obvious.
Buffalo, San Diego and St. Louis all outgained their opposition easily, topping New England, Miami and San Francisco by 125 yards or more. Their efforts yielded, in order, a six-point loss, a 10-point loss and a tie. Why? Well, because they all lost the turnover battle in their respective games.
He comes across as the crusty curmudgeon to many, if not all who reside outside the confines of Crimson Tide bliss. But, for those of who are don’t bow down to the right-here, right-now bottom-line philosophy of “a win is a win is a win … no matter how crappy you perform,” Alabama football coach Nick Saban spoke the truth about his squad’s showing the past two weeks.
Point being – the previously top-ranked Tide didn’t play well the Saturday of either week. Initially, they got away with that, sneaking out of a Baton Rouge, La., with a last-minute victory they really didn’t earn. Stuck in the same, “resting on their laurels” rut, they gave a similar effort next time … and paid for it.
In short, he could see trouble brewing when ’Bama faced off against Louisiana State, if not earlier. The warning signs were there. Frankly, the Tigers dominated the Tide two weeks ago. They outgained their visitors all evening, and if not for that 72-yard TD drive down the stretch, LSU would have doubled up ‘Bama in that all-telling stat.
In another all-telling stat, the Tide lost the turnover battle, too. They coughed it up twice; LSU not once.
These are not the best of sports times in Philadelphia.
The Phillies failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six years, their star players starting to leak some serious oil in the process. The 76ers appear to have been hoodwinked in the Andrew Bynum deal, putting all the eggs in the basket of a 7-footer with creaky knees and an even creakier drive. The Flyers … well, the Flyers, like their NHL brethren, haven’t even taken to the ice this fall and it doesn’t appear they will again in the near future.
Even the city’s only major-college football team, Temple, is in tatters, a somewhat ballyhooed return to the Big East (at least around campus and among some alums) being overrun by consistently stiffer competition and a head coach who grows more and more stubborn with sticking to a power ground game that continuously fails.
But rock bottom is reserved for the true heart and soul of Philly – the Eagles.
No squad, no outfit, no franchise, no organization means more to more people within the city’s limits than the midnight green-clad gladiators who take the turf on Sundays, representing the blue-collar masses in battle against NFL competition.