The rivalry between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins is far from friendly. The cross-town rivals never miss an opportunity to take a shot at the other in the media, in recruiting and on the field. This year, the battle for Los Angeles goes to another level as the winner will win the Pac 12 South division and play for the Pac 12 Championship.
The standings in the South have the Bruins leading the division by half a game over the Trojans. This will be USC’s last Pac 12 game as they finish the season in a non-conference rivalry game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. A win for the Bruins would open up a 1.5 game lead in the division with just one game to go, sealing the division for first-year coach Jim Mora.
Lane Kiffin and the Trojans, however, have something to say about that. With a win on Saturday, the Trojans would finish at worst in a tie with the Bruins for the division with a head-to-head victory giving them the tie-breaker. A division title would likely give the Trojans an opportunity for a rematch against the Oregon Ducks who ran past USC in Los Angeles 62-51 on November 3.
The rivalry has been woefully one-sided in recent memory, in USC’s favor. The Trojans have won five in a row in this series and 12 of the last 13. The last time that the Bruins beat USC was back in 2006 when they upset the Pete Carroll led Trojans 13-9 in the Coliseum which knocked USC out of the national title race.
Last season, the Trojans laid a 50-0 beatdown on UCLA to close out the Rick Neuheisel era. The Bruins still went on to represent the Pac 12 South by default in the Pac 12 Championship as USC was serving the last of their NCAA-imposed postseason ban.
This season, a win would give UCLA a legitimate division title, help turn around a decade of frustration in this rivalry, and be a huge boost for Mora in his first shot at the Trojans. The Bruins have out-performed expectations under their new head coach, but another loss to the Trojans would be a disappointing end to 2012.
For USC, a division title would be some small consolation for a season that had much higher aspirations in August. The preseason No. 1 team in the country with the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite and one of the most talented offenses in the country, the Trojans had visions of a BCS national title in January.
Three disappointing conference losses, however, to the Stanford Cardinal, Arizona Wildcats and Oregon have USC on the outside of their own division race. After a fall of disappointment, a division title with a shot at the conference crown would be a small consolation for Kiffin and company.
So while there’s always plenty of reasons for UCLA and USC to bring their very best for the battle of LA, this time around there’s even more on the line this time around. Who will win and reign supreme over the Pac 12 South? We’ll find out Saturday.