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UCLA Pregame Guesses: Southern Cal Edition

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It's rivalry week ... what more is there to say?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

(This week’s video is a live version of "John Coltrane Stereo Blues" by The Dream Syndicate. The Dream Syndicate were loosely associated with the so-called "Paisley Underground" movement in Los Angeles in the early-to-mid 80s. Most people, whe theye think of Los Angeles music at the time, mostly remember the hair metal scene that revolved around Doug Weston’s Troubadour and Riki Rachtman’s Cathouse. But there was a lot of other stuff going on at the time. The Paisley Underground was sort of post-hard core, drawing a lot from sixties music with a very healthy dollop of The Velvet Underground. This Velvet Connection is particularly true of The Dream Syndicate. Singer-songwriter-band leader Steve Wynn never tried to hide the fact that Lou Reed was an influence and he had no reason to hide it, either. Back in the day, I saw The Dream Syndicate more times than I can count. I saw them open for REM. I saw them headline The Roxy and Jane’s Addiction was their opening act. I saw them at The Music Machine. I saw them everywhere. They played fairly often with Green on Red, an Arizona band that ended up in Los Angeles and featured Danny Stuart singing and later on Chuck Prophet IV on guitar. Wynn and Stuart would later go on to form a band called Danny and Dusty and their album is really good, too. The Dream Syndicate eventually broke up and Wynn moved to New York City. He’s released a bunch of solo albums and has a number of other projects including one with REM’s Peter Buck, something to do with baseball. I’ve seen that band in the past few years at The Troub. Anyway, The Dream Syndicate is playing tomorrow night at The Echo. Until about a year or so ago, they hadn’t played anywhere since about 1988. But they got back together for a festival or two and then played on a Paisley Underground bill last year with The Three O’Clock, The Bangles and Rain Parade. Tomorrow night is the first proper, headlining show they’ve played in Los Angeles since ’88. Steve Wynn will be joined by original drummer Dennis Duck, Mark Walton, who joined them at the end as their third bass player, and someone I don’t know on lead guitar, filling in for the long lost Karl Precoda. Froth, a band I like from the Lollipop label is opening. We’re going to have to jam to East Hollywood once the game ends to catch the show. I hope it’s a UCLA blowout so I can leave early.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014, 11:30 am …

I heard something sort of interesting on the radio the other day.

A woman noted that the main difference between us humans and other animals is that we live our lives cognizant of our own impending deaths. (Author’s note -- this should tell you about the type of stuff I listen to on the radio when I’m not listening to music. Hint: It ain’t Steve Mason.) I find this an interesting notion to contemplate. How much does the awareness of our own eventual demise impact the way we spend our time? Would we do things differently if we thought we had all the time in the world?

I’m not exactly sure how this matters during Rival Week or if it matters at all. But if feels like is matters and so I’m sharing. I do know that I’d certainly like to see UCLA win a football championship during my lifetime and given my age and penchant for daily exercise might give me – maybe? – another 30 seasons to have that experience. On the other hand, knowing we’re going to die is not the same thing as knowing when we’re going to die – so it’s perfectly possible that this is the last UCLA football season I’m ever going to experience. (I mean, if you want to get existential about it – and, yes, I do want to get existential about it – it’s also perfectly possible that I’ve been hit by a bus and killed by the time you’re reading this and my season, all my seasons, is/are already over.)

Of course, given that we all have limited time on this mortal coil, we could/should really be debating whether or not time spent watching college football makes much sense at all. We could be doing something else, something more active, as opposed to what often feels like a passive activity, sitting and watching while a group of players and coaches do the actual doing.

(Pausing to go eat lunch – a salmon sandwich and salad – pretty good)

But I’m thinking that’s why we make more of it than it is in reality. In reality, it’s just a game. But it’s more than that because we choose to make it more than that. It’s why, I feel, we join communities like Bruins Nation. It’s why we stand on third down. It’s why I write posts and you write comments and we get outraged over perceived slights and boom the new recruits and all the rest of it. It’s how we make something active out of something passive.

I actually struggle with this part of it quite a bit. I’m not a natural "joiner" per se. I never rushed a frat and I don’t join clubs. I am just as happy, maybe happier, watching games alone as I am watching them in a group or even at the stadium. I buy tickets to the games because my kids like to go and those memories, being with them, are more important to me than actually being in the stadium.

(Hmmm … this is getting a little introspective and you guys just want me to fire everyone up. Okay, fine, before I go any further, this is my attempt to write a "rah rah, everyone get fired up, message board post. We will return to our regularly scheduled Pregame Guesses post after this break.)

I am so fired up right now I can't even work. I've barely slept. I'm checking BRO during meetings. I can't even talk to my co-workers who I know are just casual fans or my co-workers who are trying to make conversation with me just because they know I'm a fan. I don't need their amateur, "I-only-watch-the-games-on-Saturday" analysis. There is no issue they can raise that hasn't been raised here before and much better. If one more person asks me "Hey, are you going to the game this week," I might punch them.

Effin' A I'm going to the game. If I could, I'd be in Lot H right now. I'm not sleeping anyway, so might as well start tailgating. Johnny Black, Stella, carne asada with all the fixin's (including my mother-in-laws awesome guacamole ... she doesn't like football, but she knows how much it means to me and she's a cool mother-in-law). Probably chug a couple of Monster energy drinks right before we walk into the stadium to cut the booze and to amp me up to Defcon 1. (If you read on Sunday that someone had a heart attack in Section 4 -- you know it was me.)

We're gonna win the toss and defer. Let the defense set the tone. Two runs, a sack and a punt (fair catch) later and we'll have the ball around midfield. Mazzone's going to go after Josh Shaw on the first play. Play action, pump fake, deep ball down the right sideline --- Touchdown Jordan Payton!!!!!!!!!!

From there ... the rout is effin' on. We're gonna purge 50-0. We're gonna purge Cheatey Petey. We're gonna purge the logo stabbers and the guy in the dress and Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" and send that ugly-a$$ horse to the glue factory.

Don't let anyone tell you different: WE OWN THIS TOWN.

WE'RE GONNA RING THE VICTORY BELL ALL NIGHT LONG

F-SC

(Okay, where was I?)

It doesn’t help that my default reaction to almost anything is to be suspicious of everything. If everyone else is making a big deal about the big game, it’s more natural for me to lean the other way. I’ve barely thought about tomorrow this week, haven’t read all the posts, haven’t listened to any sports talk radio, haven’t glanced at any of the stories in the mainstream media. If the NSA is monitoring my browser history or emails or if they’ve bugged my house, they’d think I was less interested in tomorrow’s game than the Colorado game.

Which isn’t true.

It really is possible that my avoidance of all things rivalry has nothing to do with any rebellious part of my nature. It might have much more to do with the fact that if I start thinking about it, I’ll get really anxioust, I’ll start to obsess. I might not be able to take it. So, I stay away; convince myself I’m above it all.

The reason I’m second guessing myself is that I already hate the fact that the game starts at 5:00. I hate it. Because by tomorrow morning, I’m not going to be able to pretend it’s just a game. I’m going to go to the gym in the morning and then try to kill time for like eight hours. I know I have to go to the dry cleaners and pick up some shirts. I’ll probably do some grocery shopping. Seven hours to go.

How real is this?

For the first time since I started typing this mess, I’m starting to procrastinate. It’s only 2:00 pm on Thursday and I have hours before I have to actually load this into the CSM to get up on the blog in Friday morning. The more I actually contemplate tomorrow’s game, the more intense it gets for me. The more I think about how Saturday is going to go, the more restless and anxious I get. Forty-eight hours from now, I’m going to be a fucking wreck … and there will still be three hours to kick-off.

So, how do I think Saturday is going to go?

I feel we’ll win the game. I think we win this game 65% of the time. But that doesn’t mean that Southern Cal isn’t a tough opponent. Receiver Nelson Agholor will be one of the best players in the game tomorrow. I watched the first half of their game with Berkeley and they could not stop Agholor. The Trojans like to move him around a lot, from the end to the slot to the backfield. They try to set up mismatches on linebackers and put Agholor in spots that make it difficult to double-team him. He’ll get his catches tomorrow. The trick is to limit the damage he does. Their top running back, Buck Allen, is another good player who is going to get his yards. I feel our defense really just needs to make him work hard to get them. We also need to put pressure on Cody Kessler. He’s not mobile and Southern Cal’s offensive line isn’t great. If Jeff Ulbrich dials up some blitzes, we should get some sacks.

I think we’ll gain yards on them and score points. I feel those yards and points will come easier as the game goes on. The Trojans lack depth and it appears they tire out. Overall, we have the better team. it should tell you something that SC is returning thousands of tickets. Even their own fans don't want to be at the Rose Bowl.

None of this analysis is particularly original, by the way. In fact, I think it's pretty obvious. The biggest concern I have about tomorrow is how we play. If we avoid the penalties, if we avoid turnovers, we should win. But should and will are two different things. That’s why time will stand still tomorrow.

I’m staying away from the whole "what it all means" thing. I am perfectly aware that we control our own destiny and that my dream of crossing "UCLA National Football Championship " off of my bucket list is still in play. I don’t think my looking ahead has any impact on the team. But it does have an impact on my sanity. Until the final whistle sounds tomorrow, I’m taking it one game at a time.

As for tomorrow, we have the claim ticket, we just need to pick up the package.

And, with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Southern Cal edition:

  1. What do you think tomorrow's final score will be?
  2. What number will be higher: Brett Hundley's rushing yards or total points in the game?
  3. How many tackles will Eric Kendricks pick up in his final SC game tomorrow?