Today marks the day that we take on the hated Trojans from Southern Cal. It's been a huge, winning week for the wider Bruin universe, with UCLA hearing our voices and banning the Trojans' skirt-wearing mascot and his tiny sword from stabbing our logo, and with super freshman Shabazz Muhammad being reinstated by the NCAA after their tainted investigation was exposed. But all of those victories will matter for nothing if Jim Mora and our football team come up short today. For the first time since 2001, the Bruins enter the game as the higher-ranked team. Southern Cal's season has come off the rails, with three losses, after starting off as the pre-season No. 1 team in the AP poll: that's what happens when Lane Kiffin is your coach (Pete Carroll was a cheating a**hole, but at least he knew how to cheat and win, as opposed to cheat and look stupid).
Let's take a trip down memory lane:
UCLA's Eric McNeal Interception vs. USC (via jtthirtyfour)
It's time that we retire that highlight, that we get new highlights of our Bruins triumphing over the Trojans. That happens today. As we've said before, there is no excuse to lose to the Trojans this year. Not at the Rose Bowl. Not with the talented roster we have.
It's WIN OR FAIL for Jim Mora today. This season will not be a success if the Bruins choke at the Rose Bowl against a very beatable Southern Cal team on Saturday.
So, with that said, let's get to the bits and pieces of news floating around the UCLA-iverse at the beginning of this work week. Here's the Bruin Bites for this Monday morning:
- If you're planning on going to today's game, bring a poncho, with an 80% chance of rain in the forecast. And most importantly, you should be there already, and if you're not, hit the road now: Rose Bowl officials recommend arriving early given the huge number of people on the roads to Pasadena and parking in and around the stadium.
- Prior to the game, the New York Times previewed the coach and player that have been key figures in UCLA's turnaround this season: Coach Mora and fan-favorite running back, Johnathan "The Mayor" Franklin, who grew up in a Southern Cal neighborhood, with a dad as a Southern Cal alum. As Jet Ski said: "[w]hen I went to U.C.L.A., I pretty much had to burn my whole closet." Let's hope the Mayor burns up Troy today.
- Today's game is important, not just for the Bruins to win, but it gives UCLA a chance to deliver a crushing blow to a reeling Southern Cal program, hard-hit by sanctions, and set up UCLA for sustained success and a role reversal akin to Pete Carroll's first win over the high-flying Bruins in 2001. And the Trojans and their beat writers know it, noting that a loss today for the Trojans could spell deeper trouble for Southern Cal. Also, note the irony that Wolf has one of the key matchups being how former UCLA commit Morgan Breslin does pressuring our offensive line. Let's make Morgan regret bailing on Westwood.
- Finally, in a great story, the Daily News new UCLA beat writer (how I miss the Jon Gold and Miguel Melendez days) Jack Wang profiled hardcore UCLA fan Bill Johnson, a season-ticket holder for the past 14 years, who has missed only a single home game in that span. The inspiring thing? He's legally blind. Let's hope Bill can finally hear a rocking Rose Bowl today, with a huge UCLA victory in the wings.
Those are your pre-game Bruin Bites. This is your morning college football, pre-game, f**k-up Southern Cal open thread. For now, feel free to fire away with your thoughts in the open thread or check out the BN previews of "the other team" from across town (coaching, offense, and defense/special teams). Finally, if you haven't done so already, make sure you get your pre-game guesses in before kick-off at 12:05 p.m. PT on Fox. No, not Fox Sports: actual Fox.
Time to get it done Bruins. This is the game.