In a special pre-game, Beat Southern Cal week edition of our BN roundtable discussion, we urge you to participate by answering the questions and asking your own.
1. What are some of your favorite UCLA-Southern Cal rivalry moments? Does not have to be limited to football and can include personal experiences from your UCLA days.
Nestor: I was lucky enough to go undefeated against Southern Cal during my five years at UCLA. There are three moments that stand out from those five magical yeaers:
(i) 1992: J. J. Stokes dragging a Trojan hanging on to his legs to complete a 90 yard TD pass from immortal John Barnes during the incredible comeback win of 1992. It was followed up with students jumping around as if it was a mosh pit from a Beastie Boys concert, band going out of control, and everyone tearing up in joy. It was one of those games in which many UCLA fans would have pre-emptively conceded defeat. But we showed up and went home with a new legend of Barnes to Stokes.
(ii) 1993: Marvin Goodwin intercepted a Rob Johnson pass in the Coliseum end zone to clinch a UCLA Pac-10 title in the closing seconds and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Whoever was going to win that game would be headed towards the Rose Bowl. Singing that "the Rose Bowl, _ _ _ _ $C" at the Colosseum was all kinds of awesomeness.
(iii) 1991: Bruins under second year redshirt freshman Tommy Maddox headed to the Colosium with a 4 year winless streak against the Trojans. After Arnold Ale, a transfer from Notre Dame recovered a fumble in Coliseum to secure a win over the Trojans, the eight game winning streak was officially underway. Maybe another Notre Dame transfer (we got two of them) will experience something similar on Saturday.
gbruin: 1992: Marvin Goodwin's pick beating *$c and clinching the Rose Bowl in one play, when everything was on the line. Single most euphoric moment I can think of. The double overtime win in '96 was epic, too, for how far we came back in the 4th. My best personal effort was scrambling up the west wall of the Arroyo Seco to tear down a We Are SC banner someone had attached to their back fence overlooking our tailgaiting spot on the road outside the golf course.
AHMB: Like Freesia, I was in school for a bad stretch. The worst part was, I thought UCLA had the better team 3 out of the 4 years. Despite the losses, UCLA-Southern Cal is a very special rivalry. The week leading up to the game is one of my favorite times of the year, and there isn't another week in the season that even remotely replicates the energy around campus.
freesia39: Well, they are definitely not football related because we didn't beat Southern Cal the entire time I was in school. ALL OF YOU ARE SPOILED. SPOILED. I do remember from basketball the 2002 game between UCLA and Southern Cal, when both teams were ranked, and we BARELY beat them thanks to a Billy Knight 3 at the buzzer. I think that's one of my few happy memories of this series.
bruinclassof10: 13-9. I was a freshman and still remember the expression on Pete Carroll's face after Eric McNeal tipped Booty's pass to himself.
2. Which players need to step up on Saturday for us to win?
Nestor: Sorry to use a cliche here. But this is one of those games where we need every part of our program to step up.
gbruin: The offensive line has to do better this week. We will need a lot of points, and it will be even better if we can play from ahead and make their offense one dimensional. That gives our defensive front a better chance at really putting the kind of pressure on Barkely that we will need to slow their passing game.
AHMB: All of them, of course, but Brett Hundley and the defensive line in particular.
freesia39: All of them. It needs to be a 100% team effort.
bruinclassof10: Everyone of course, but especially our D-line and linebackers. I know that Hester/Price will get burnt, so it is up to our front 7 to keep Barkley on his ass and force him to make terrible throws.
3. What are some areas of reasonable concern?
Nestor: While I want our team to play with visceral emotion on Saturday, they also need to be focused. We have had issues with personal fouls. We really need to stay composed in this game because can't give the Trojan offense extra downs. Obviously, the SPTRs are a major concern because the quality of the officiating of these jackholes has continued to nose dive. I actually think both Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price have played a little better in recent weeks but have been totally victimized by SPTRs. Are they going to get a fair shot while defending the stud Trojan WRs this Saturday?
gbruin: Pass defense. Pass defense. And pass defense. Getting to Barkley is an absolute must. No one has been able to handle Lee and Woods this season, so I don't think we can expect Price and Hester to do it either. Stopping their passing has to happen up front.
AHMB: With so much energy around the game, the fact that this will be Hundley's first time playing against Southern Cal gives some pause. Once he gets into the game, he'll be fine, but I hope he can come out level headed and avoid any early mistakes.
freesia39: The secondary - we need to stop Lee and Woods, and the secondary needs to put in even more effort than the effort they've shown this season. Impossible? Heck no. And I totally agree - SPTRs are a total concern and I don't want this game to take 4.5 hours! I just pulled up the penalty yardage for FBS teams - Washington St. is at 97, Oregon St is at 104, Southern Cal at 115, Washington at 116, California at 117, Oregon at 118, and UCLA dead last at 120. COME ON. There is something wrong with Pac-12 officiating.
bruinclassof10: Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price.
4. What do you think a W in this game mean for Coach Mora and the UCLA football program moving forward?
Nestor: Without a W the mission in this season will remain unaccomplished. Without a W, this season will not be any better than Karl Dorrell's 10 win season. Bruins haven't had an opportunity like this in years. They are taking on a Trojan squad with vulnerabilites on defense and an offense that has been susceptible to pressure. We must take advantage of our home field and get this done. A victory will finally set this program up towards a path out of the abyss of last 10 years. Losing this game will mean more of the same.
gbruin: I think it will answer any remaining concerns whether Mora is a viable long term coach for U.C.L.A. Certainly the program is better than it has been in a long while. But better doesn't necessarily mean good enough. Good enough is competing yearly for the Pac-12 title, bringing in top recruiting classes, having a program with good character we can be proud of, and beating Southern Cal.
AHMB: Of course it means beating Southern Cal, which in and of itself is satisfying, but it also means the Bruins will have a shot to play for the Rose Bowl. This game is a big deal.
freesia39: It means they have accomplished many of the goals they set for themselves when the season started and it is something this program can definitely build on. When we won in 2006, we couldn't build on it, and instead cratered. We're barely digging ourselves out of it now. You have to keep moving forward, and not holding yourselves to JUST a win against Southern Cal.
bruinclassof10: The football monopoly in LA is officially over.
5. Will you consider Mora's first season a success without a victory against Southern Cal?
gbruin: No season is a success without a victory over Southern Cal. Period.
AHMB: No. After the season is over, and if we beat Stanford and win our bowl game, maybe I'll think we had a good year, but at this point it's beat Southern Cal or bust.
freesia39: I'm 75/25. I always want to beat Southern Cal, but right now we are in line with my expectations. Of course my expectation is also to beat that other school from across town with regularity.
bruinclassof10: No, there's no excuse not to win this year.
6. The Bruin defense has had a hard time dealing with pro-set defenses this year (California and Oregon State)? Do you think Mora and Spanos will have the team well prepared with adjustments this Saturday?
Nestor: Boy, I sure hope so. The key will be to bring the heat on Barkley from all fronts. It doesn't necessarily mean blitzing in every down, but getting creative with blitz packages. I'd also like to see Spanos mix up his coverage and not leaving our CBs in one on one with Lee and Woods. That'd be a recipe of disaster.
gbruin: I'm sure they will be prepared. I am more concerned about their ability to execute well enough.
AHMB: I don't know if it is pro set offenses or elite wide receivers that give us trouble, but Southern Cal has both. The coaches get paid the big bucks for a reason- their job is to prepare the team and put the players in position to make plays.
freesia39: If we don't, we're screwed. I think Daddy Kiffykins is going to have a hard time with our offense (oh please prove me right) and as long as we make Barkley extremely uncomfortable that should set up our defense nicely.
bruinclassof10: Yes, boy will they be ready.
7. The Extra Point
Nestor: Winning this Saturday could potentally start the process of healing from the scars from December 5, 1998.
gbruin: I think we are a better overall team. I think we have better coaches. The game is at home. This is our best season as a whole in a decade and the program might really be getting to where it should be. I hope that Lee and Woods aren't such an advantage to negate all that.
AHMB: I like Freesia's answer, but my 8-Clap finale isn't quite as "PC".
freesia39: CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP U CLAP CLAP CLAP C CLAP CLAP CLAP L CLAP CLAP CLAP A CLAP CLAP CLAP. U-C-L-A BEAT SC. That's all I should hear until Saturday.
bruinclassof10: This week may just define what kind of coaching legacy Jim Mora will write at UCLA. Win, and he can start showing Southern Cal and the rest of the Pac-12, that we're a force to be reckoned with. Lose and...the doubts start creeping in. Either way, I'll be at the Rose Bowl...(Beat) SC...the Rose Bowl...
Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on everything from Beat Southern Cal week, the game and bold predictions.