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Pregame Guesses: Southern Cal

3:25 am.

Game day -- fifteen and half hours to kick-off, give or take a couple of Bud Light commercials.

3:25 am and it just totally hit me out of the blue that I didn't write a guesses post for this week's game -- due yesterday. In my defense, I haven't been on the computer -- no email, no blogs, no message boards, nothing -- since I left the office Wednesday afternoon. It's a holiday weekend, you know, and I've been doing the family thing.

I didn't even know we lost to Butler in hoopa until I just woke up in the easy chair, brushed some cabernet-induced cobwebs out of my eyes and started to write this post.

So, what is there to say about the USC game at 3:30 am?

I guess the straight up, I'm-too-tired-to-be-anything-but-honest truth is that I'm optimistic about the game, but afraid of my own optimism. What I mean is, I've been around long enough to have seen just about every scenario pre-rivalry game, but still I feel I'm in unchartered waters here. Let's put it this way:

For the first time in a long time, USC seems vulnerable, beatable at 3:33 am game day. As opposed to the last seven or eight years when they appeared invincible at 3:34 am on game day, this year they seem beatable. So, my emotions are not "Hey, it's a rivalry game, throw out the records and anything can happen" and then I sat back and prayed for a 13-9 miracle (but almost every time ended up with something closer to 27-0 in favor of the bad guys.) No, this year my feelings are more like "Last time I saw USC they were getting their doors blown out by Stanford in the Coliseum and we've been playing much better and anyway when was the last time we went into the USC on a three game winning streak and they were coming off a blow out loss at home." In fact, if they weren't "USC" someone would be noting that we're the hot team on a winning streak while they've lost two of their last three.

All that said -- 3:39 -- and I have every reason to be optimistic. We're the hot team. But just typing that, makes me feeling like I might be jinxing us. Like I'm forgetting the most important part of the sentence.

We're the hot team -- but they're still USC and they still have the better record and the second I start thinking we're going to win, something disastrous is going to happen.

See? See what happens when a prior coach (heck, prior coaches) and an apathetic administration allow the program to fall to mediocrity or worse. You start to doubt even the facts that tell you that this is a very winnable game and you fear even believing that the Bruins straight up are the team with momentum and that a UCLA win really wouldn't be much of an upset. Like I kid that's been beaten too many time by his last foster father, it's hard to trust the new guy, even though he seems really nice.

Okay, 3:44 am and I'm not too coherent. Too many carbs, too much red wine and Japanese beer coursing through my bloodstream for me to be making too much sense.

The simple point I'm struggling to make is that if this wasn't a rivalry game, if they weren't a team that has dominated the past seven or eight years, if we weren't the program that has struggled the last seven eight years or whatever then no one would have a hard time being optimistic about tonight's game. Throw out the records it's a rivalry game? -- No way -- in fact, just take a look at the records and you'll see all you need to know that this is a close game going in that could be won by either team.

Look, it's late/early. I'm going to finish this off and try and get some rest. I'm just saying that this year Bruin fans need no false bravado to convince themselves they can win. There is nothing false about it:: we can win.

Fifteen hours to kick off -- let's do it already.

Here are the Pregame Guesses for USC (and a giant "My Bad" for forgetting to do this earlier:

  1. Haven't heard much this year about the Norm Chow-Pete Carroll rivalry within a rivalry. But it's till the key match-up going in. With that in mind, who will score first in the USC-UCLA game?
  2. I think one key to the game will be whether or not UCLA can move the ball on the ground. That's how Stanford routed USC and it's important that the offense not rely completely on the passing game. True or false, the Bruins will rush for more than 100 yards tonight?
  3. There's an old saying in football: Pay attention to the kicking game, because it's there that the breaks are made. UCLA's most consistent player all year has been Kai Forbath. In a close game, he could prove crucial. How many field goals will Kai kick tonight against the Trojans?