So, it's come down to this: a resurgent Southern Cal Trojans squad playing on emotion for their interim head coach, resiliently turning around a season that was in complete free fall under Lane Kiffin taking on a struggling UCLA Bruins team that seems to be aloof about the importance of today's game. For Jim Mora, it's his last chance to redeem a season that will not even make the bare minimum expectations (win 9 games, win the Pac-12 South, beat the Trojans) laid out before the year even began. And what's important to remember about this game is that it represents lost opportunity: Southern Cal, by their own lofty standards are in total free-fall -- this is a program, that not too long ago, was getting punked out by Vince Young in the BCS title game. Now, they are sanctioned and barely relevant. But instead of capitalizing on an opportunity to completely change the dynamics of college football in Southern California, UCLA has sat around and done nothing (much like our incompetent athletic director). While Pete Carroll took full advantage of a similar opportunity to change the dynamics in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, UCLA looks to do too-little, too-late and will instead compete against a resurgent Southern Cal team instead of kicking them while they were down to keep them there.
Heckuva job Chianti. You too Jim.
But there's still opportunity: with Southern Cal poised to hire either Jack Del Rio or Ed Orgeron as their next head coach, if Jim Mora can get a huge win over the Trojans in their house, dominate whatever third or fourth tier bowl we end up in, and come out firing on all cylinders next season and actually win the conference, UCLA might just be able to reverse our fortunes like Carroll did at Southern Cal. The opportunity is there Jim: are you going to take it or not?
With that said, let's turn to the game itself: kick-off is slated for 5 p.m. PST on ABC in a nationally televised rivalry grudge match. While most of your wisely avoid the Southern Cal campus like the plague, now is the time to man-up and head down and help turn the Coliseum blue. For those of us in exile, you can find information on watch parties in your local area here. Alright, let's turn to the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse as we get ready to kick-off a huge must-win game for Jim Mora:
- Beginning with the game itself, the WWL has a fairly generic preview of the game, but they do smartly pick up on two major keys to the game for UCLA: finding a way to slow down Marqise Lee, who is expected to play today, and finding a way to slow down the pressure on Hundley that is likely to be created by the Trojans' defensive line working against our young offensive line.
- For the Trojans' talking points, the WWL's WeAreSC site makes good points about how today's game can be a springboard for the Trojans heading into next season, as a win over UCLA will help the Trojans retain their psychological dominance of Los Angeles and help Orgeron make his case to be made the permanent replacement to Lane Kiffin. As we've been saying: this is an absolute must win for the Bruins.
- Bonus for those of you concerned about a repeat of last year’s craziness outside of the stadium: apparently, there will be extra security working today’s game, at least according to statements from both schools, which should alleviate some of those safety concerns. Although you suspect 99.9% of the work going into that was on Pat Haden, with Chianti Dan simply showing up to the meeting with a box of half-eaten doughnuts.
- If you’re still so dense to think this game doesn’t have long-term implications for both programs, there’s no helping you, but you can see the impact the current state of affairs has on the local high school recruiting scene in this Los Angeles Times survey of local area HS football coaches (which is made up of a list of the top-25 ranked programs in the area). Of the 26 coaches (one tossed in as a bonus!) asked, only 9 picked UCLA to beat a sanction-impacted Trojan team led by an interim head coach. Six or seven years ago, UCLA might get 1 or 2 votes, so I suppose there’s some progress. But, despite Southern Cal hitting its low-point, they still retain the aura over our Bruins in the minds of the coaches who are in the ear of the kids we are competing against the Trojans for. That perception has to change and beating the Trojans on their own turf will go a long way: again, this is a must win.
Alright folks, those are your bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse as we get ready to take on the Southern Cal Trojans in an absolute must-win game for Jim Mora and our Bruins. Stay tuned for the morning general college football open thread and, of course, our rivalry game thread prior to kick-off. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, opinions, additions, etc. Let’s get it done Bruins: no excuses. Must win.
BEAT SOUTHERN CAL!