The USC-UCLA rivalry takes on more significance on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, as the Trojans and Bruins battle for a spot in the Pac-12 conference title game.
For UCLA, the game will also be an opportunity to avenge a humiliating thumping to USC in their last meeting, 50-0. In a change of pace, the No. 17 Bruins are ranked ahead of the Trojans, who began the year No. 1 but have slipped all the way to No. 21.
The game also marks Jim Mora's debut in the rivalry. UCLA has turned their fortunes around with their first-year coach, who has guided them into bowl contention.
"It's going to be emotional," Mora said. "You've gotta capture that emotion because you want to have that emotion, but you have to control it. The last thing I know that I want is chippiness on the field because I think that it takes away from the concentration that's necessary to perform a particular play."
But UCLA may need more than just emotion. The Trojans have an explosive offense, which includes Heisman Trophy Award candidate Marqise Lee. The wide out has already caught for 1,447 yards, and is a major threat on special teams. He is partnered with junior Robert Woods, who has 10 touchdowns this season. Joseph Fauria is probably the Bruins' most important receiving weapon, as the 6-foot-7 tight end uses his tall frame to present problematic marking for opponents.
The game will also feature a quality quarterback matchup. USC's Matt Barkley began the season as the leading candidate to win the Heisman, but he has not had the type of season many were expecting. Barkley has 13 interceptions this season, but is still enjoying a very good year with 33 touchdown throws, and 2,972 passing yards. Brett Hundley has been a pleasant surprise for the Bruins, having completed 69 percent of his passes, and rushing for 272 yards and six touchdowns.
Jonathan Franklin has been very productive for UCLA this season. The senior has rushed for 1,270 yards this season, and eight touchdowns. USC uses a pair of tail backs in Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, who have combined for over 1,200 yards.
Defense has been a big reason for the Bruins' success this season, and perhaps a major factor why the Trojans are not competing for a National Championship. UCLA has 25 takeaways this season, and have seen improvement in their front four, and received a strong season from Anthony Barr. USC have had their problems with penalties and tackling this season, but still boast a very talented unit.
The game kicks off at 3:05 p.m. pacific time, with FOX televising the game.
Betting Odds: USC favored by 3.5
Over/Under: 66 points
Prediction: UCLA will be excited about this matchup after last season's painful loss. The Bruins have a strong chance to win if they force turnovers, and if they can open holes for Franklin. USC will likely take advantage of their speed, and Barkley, playing in his last game against UCLA, should do a better job of picking out receivers and taking care of the ball.
Predicted Score: USC over UCLA, 38-33