|USC Legends News|
The game between the USC Trojans and UCLA might turn out different on Saturday.
Since their rivalry has been one rival short lately.
"Sometimes in rivalries teams play out of character," USC Trojans linebacker Oscar Lua said. "You see it all the time. That's what makes rivalries so great. If you look at everything involved, this game has the makings to be a classic upset."
There's biting chatter, back-and-forth when a rivalry is going good. But the Trojans this week were too busy selling the Bruins' merits to question their abilities.
"Those guys are a great team, with an excellent defense," USC Trojans receiver Steve Smith said. "None of us are thinking this will be an easy game."
To date USC Trojans has won seven consecutive games in this matchup, turning showdown into beat-down, crosstown foes into neighborly woes.
So the question remains as simple as three letters and as complicated as the three letters BCS.
"The Bruins are a great team, they're just having a bad year," Lua said, offering a backhanded compliment worthy of Wimbledon. "If they don't come out to play, it will be what everybody expects, the Trojans blowing them out. But we expect them to come out ready to go."
During the streak, USC Trojans has won by an average of three touchdowns - 39-18. Only two of the games have been decided by single-digit margins.
The streak has included a shutout - 27-0 in 2001; a 31-point car wreck - 52-21 in 2002; and an embarrassment so complete even the Bruins' face masks were left blushing - 66-19 last season.
And here's the most damning fact of all: Even the presence of Paul Hackett couldn't stop USC Trojans from beating UCLA, the absurdly mediocre coach leading the Trojans to the first and second victories of the streak in 1999 and 2000.
Since Pete Carroll's arrival, UCLA has been more UGLY in this matchup. Only the 2004 game - 29-24 - has qualified as competitive.
Before this USC Trojans run, of course, UCLA beat the Trojans eight consecutive times. That, however, is ancient history, carbon dating confirming that Larry Smith coached USC Trojans at the start of that spiral.
In any matchup this tilted, there's the chance of the better team overlooking its lesser opponent. The problem with that theory here, however, is Carroll's teams always seem to be too focused to go blind.
"I don't think that's happened once in my time here," said Smith, a senior who arrived on campus in 2003. "Coach Carroll won't let it happen. He coaches us up on the little things, like how to speak. He doesn't tell us what to say, but he'll tell us what not to say. That's partly how he gets us to focus every week."
So why then? The Bruins' defense? If UCLA's defenders play like they did against Notre Dame, their team could have a chance. Unfortunately, the rest of the Bruins likely would bumble away that chance in a dramatic, last-second, instant-unclassic meltdown.
Crucial mistakes by John David Booty? He's no Matt Leinart, no Carson Palmer, but he is the starting quarterback of the No.2 team in the nation. If Booty's pressured, things could become interesting. If he's not, things could become C-SPAN.
"In my time here, the feeling has been we're a dominant team," Smith said. "It's never felt any other way, and it all comes from Coach Carroll. That's his attitude. It's like a constant uprising around here. That's the feeling we have again."
The USC Trojans offense isn't explosive enough to go 2005 again. And the UCLA offense isn't explosive enough to burst a water balloon.
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