Throughout the years, Los Angelenos got used to a simple statistic: The University of Southern California, Trojans were winners, while the University of California, Los Angeles, Bruins, were used to a less than .500 winning percentage under former head coach Rick Neuheisel.
If you’re a fan of any Pac-12 team, more so the Trojans, keeping an eye on direct opponents and imminent foes is a given, but after being dismantled in a shutout last season (50-0) against USC, UCLA’s Athletic Director Dan Guerrero sent Neuheisel packing, and brought in Jim Mora to replace him.
It has become very apparent how undervalued Mora was coming into this season, and the underlying vendetta he may, or may not have had already with USC. Mora was named the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach in 2009 when Mike Holmgren retired, but after posting a 5-11 season in 2009, Mora was fired and replaced by none other, than legendary SC coach, Pete Carroll.
To add insult, Mora was welcomed to the start of this season by a billboard (which was anonymously put up) in Westwood, California, featuring SC QB Matt Barkley, which read (in cardinal) “We Play To Finish”, with “LA” in gold letters.
Mora’s first season began with a cross-town rival who was already making his blood boil before the first game, and all things considered, it created the perfect storm for UCLA to stop at nothing to end the dynasty.
As many remember, due to USC’s final year of post-season bans, per NCAA sanctions, UCLA was the default team to head into the Pac-12 Championship game last year against the #5 Oregon Ducks, under interim head coach, Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson. While Oregon was played up to butcher UCLA, the Bruins were able to walk away with a 49-31 loss, which gave them immediate optimism about the 2012 season.
UCLA is ranked No.18 in the BCS, and with a 7-2 overall; 4-2 Pac-12 record, and with much of the team foundation and success created by freshmen – including QB Brett Hundley, I see many reasons for the Cardinal and Gold to be paranoid at the future of the Pac-12 South.