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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Football vs. Southern Cal

Can UCLA repeat history ten years later? Tomorrow's Crosstown Rivalry has a lot of parallels to the 2006 UCLA 13-9 victory.

Can UCLA repeat its performance of 2006, when Eric McNeal picked off a pass to seal the game, 13-9?
Can UCLA repeat its performance of 2006, when Eric McNeal picked off a pass to seal the game, 13-9?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It’s Rivalry Week! Beat $C*! Beat SC*!

Welcome to what might be the penultimate Pregame Guesses this season. While we are all hoping for an upset win over the #13 Southern Cal Trojans, most realize that such a victory will be a tall order this season.

UCLA has at least ended its four game losing streak with a win over lowly Oregon State, but the season has been on a downward trajectory for some time now (since the loss to A&M in the first game?). It feels like UCLA will need to break its habit of self-inflicted wounds—dropped passes, poor special teams play, bad decisions at the QB position, coaching mistakes/mismanagement, to name a few—to have a shot in tomorrow’s contest for bragging rights in the City of Angels.

Southern Cal, on the other hand, has roared back from a 1-3 season start (against tough competition), along with talk of firing the head coach and anticipated player defections, and has instead come together to win six straight games. The Trojans are in contention for a spot in the PAC 12 Championship, most recently knocking Washington from the ranks of the unbeaten in Seattle. They are about as hot as any team in the nation.

So this kind of feels like 2006, the year of the big upset: 13-9. In that game, Pat Cowan started over injured starter Ben Olsen, who was hurt in early October, an eerie coincidence similar to Josh Rosen’s injury in October this year. In the 2006 contest, Cowan passed for 114 yards and ran for another 55, including a touchdown, and UCLA’s defense held the Trojans to one touchdown (the UCLA offense surrendered a safety on a holding call in the end zone). Sounds like the type of performance the UCLA defense might need to prevail against Southern Cal tomorrow.

Southern Cal entered the 2006  game #2 in the nation, with one loss and designs on the National Championship game. Unlike this season, in 2006 the Trojans faced the Bruins in their last regular season game. Win and they likely would have been in the National Championship Game. After their loss at the hands of the Bruins, Southern Cal dispatched Michigan in the Rose Bowl, but the shot at the title was bitterly lost at the hands of the Bruins.

UCLA went into that same game 6-5, eligible for a lower tier bowl, and with really nothing to play for but pride over a rival that had won seven straight over the Bruins.

So the parallels are not perfect—a three loss Southern Cal team will not likely be in the mix for the College Football Playoff the year barring a spate of miracle losses by other schools, but the Trojans have a fighting chance to play for and win the PAC 12 Championship. UCLA, on the other hand, is playing for bowl eligibility as well as pride in Los Angeles. But tomorrow’s game still has the same vibe as 2006 going into the game.

And so I am going to flashback to 2006, channeling Eric McNeal and company, and select a song from that year. My wife was pregnant with our only child for the majority of 2006, so my mind was on getting the nursery together, "What to Expect When You Are Expecting," Baby Bjorns, and other such things—not on the 2006 music scene.

But I have always loved the consummate L.A. band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers (IMO, a perfect choice for the Crosstown Rivalry), and they put out a pretty damn good double album in 2006, "Stadium Arcadium." There are several hits (five singles) from that release, but my favorite song on the album is the little known "Turn It Again." Enjoy.

It’s not metal (sorry G), but it has a blistering guitar solo starting at about the 4:20 mark that matches any I’ve heard from any metal band. It’s not Janis (sorry 77); IMO she’s not the right choice for the Southern Cal game. Crank the song "up to eleven" and for the last 1:40 of the tune, it’ll get your blood pumping to beat some Trogan tail!

UCLA has its work cut out for it tomorrow. The way I see it, UCLA has to play to its strength. And its strength is defense: #26 in the nation, allowing only 356.1 yards per game. Southern Cal, on the other hand is ranked #28 in the nation in total offense, averaging 468.8 yards per game, 112.7 yards more per game than UCLA gives up.

The Trojans also average over 31 points a game. I don’t see the Bruins scoring over 31 points, so the defense will need to hold Southern Cal’s offense in check. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: How many yards will of offense will Southern Cal gain against the UCLA defense?

The Bruins will also need to limit dropped passes tomorrow. Personally, I attribute two losses directly to dropped passes late in the game, which would have led to UCLA scoring opportunities to take the lead. An argument can be made that more than two games were lost as a result of dropped passes.

The Bruins cannot afford to drop passes against Southern Cal, especially given the state of the running game, and especially since UCLA needs to capitalize on the good passes that Mike Fafaul throws, because there has been (and likely will be tomorrow) some bad throws. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many dropped passes will UCLA have tomorrow? I’ll set the over/under at five.

Finally, some unsung hero needs to step up. Someone other than one of the stars needs to be the "the man" and make a game changing play. Ten years ago, in 2006, it was Eric McNeal who sealed the deal:

Oh, the look on Pete Carroll’s face! As the color commentator said, yes, Bruin fans, we will remember that inception forever! PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Which unsung player (if any) will step up and make a big play for the Bruins?

I usually ask what the attendance will be for home games as a bonus guess, but I am hoping that the Rose Bowl will be a sell out (if you think not, tell us in the comments as an unofficial Pregame Guess). Pat Cowan rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown in 2006. Mike Fafaul can run with the ball better than Josh Rosen can. Might UCLA let Fafaul keep a couple of those mesh options a-la Brett Hundley? Fafaul’s best game rushing is 23 yards and most of his yardage has come via the scramble, not on designed plays. Hundley he is not. But maybe UCLA pulls out all the stops. It could be an interesting twist. BONUS PREGAME GUESS: Guess Mike Fafaul’s rushing yardage.

That’s it for the Rivalry Week edition of Pregame Guesses! Give us your guesses in the comment section. Remember, we also have the Crowd's Line prediction widget to let you predict the final score of the game.

Of course I need to finish this piece with a second music selection (a PGG first, as far as I know), one that will get us even more pumped up for the game. Go Bruins!!!