Los Angeles has traded hands to UCLA, at least for the moment
By EVAN BUDROVICH
College Contributor Network
The USC Trojans have much bigger problems than trying to stab the Rose Bowl turf. Ever since Jim Mora took over operations at UCLA, the head-to-head battle for football supremacy in Los Angeles has not even been close. UCLA is now the more polished program and there's no debating that fact.
The deadly combination of head coach Jim Mora and quarterback Brett Hundley, who passed Cade McNown for most career touchdown passes in UCLA history this season, have given the Trojans unending fits. From coaching to execution to in-game adjustments (that part of football where coaches earn those lofty salaries) the Bruins snatched away the Victory Bell with relative ease.
As the 82,431 fans watched the beat down transpire in the Rose Bowl, many of whom were spotted in Cardinal and Gold, it was fairly evident who was the "Underdog" and who was the "Big Man" in Los Angeles as both teams sprinted out of the tunnel.
The last three years have been horrific to watch, as both a student at the University of Southern California and a reporter who regularly covers practices and games. Blessed with a front-and-center view of the action, provided by the newly revamped UCLA press box, my KXSC Student Radio Broadcast turned from an exciting, emotional start to the harsh reality of disappointment in a matter of minutes.
Seriously though, losing to your biggest rival sucks. Especially when you have the "talent" and "potential" to win the big game. Nothing is more depressing in sports than coming up short of expectation.
Maybe we had it wrong the whole time?
The USC Trojans have 11 national championships and six Heisman trophy winners, and 483 Trojans (second-most to Notre Dame) have been selected in the NFL draft. But over the last three years, the Trojans have been out-manned, out-prepared and downright humiliated on the national stage.
History is etched in stone forever, and the Bruins will never have the pedigree to match USC's heralded success as a football entity. That can also be said of comparing USC men's basketball to UCLA, it's just ludicrous to place both in the same sentence as there is one clearly dominant program.
While the deed is far from done, at least in the head coaches' opinions, the numbers are quite staggering. UCLA has won the last three meetings by a combined 111-62. The Bruins have scored at least 35 points in three straight games against the Trojans for the first time in the rivalry's 85-year history. History may be on USC's side, but the scales are tipping fast.
"It just confirms what I have believed in all along. It's not close to finished, but we are moving in the right direction," said Mora, who sternly addressed a swarm of quote-hungry reporters on Saturday night.
As with any bonafide rivalry, both teams have to maintain a certain level of success. Not only against one another but in the national landscape. USC controls the all-time series, 44-31-7, losing just four games dating back to 1999, when UCLA won eight straight over the Trojans. But now the Bruins have to focus on winning the Pac-12 South and a big-time bowl game, securing a division title USC hasn't won since the UNOFFICIAL crown of 2011. (Hint, hint, 50-0 "One More Year.")
What's lost on the national observer is the level of vitriol USC has towards itself -- yes, itself -- after UCLA continued to highlight the Trojans' failures as a struggling program. I really think it started with the stabbing of the field controversy, when the USC drum major was threatened with a lifetime ban from the Rose Bowl if he stabbed the field, as per tradition for every home and away game on the schedule. Unless you are UCLA, and don't practice what you preach when it comes to savoring a sacred field.
The hatred stems even deeper, despite the savvy move to disallow the long-standing USC Trojan tradition. It keeps building, knowing that everything you do goes wrong and that UCLA seemingly has the answers for everything you pride yourself in doing as a football program. This year the Trojans wanted to pound the football and limit Hundley from beating them. That plan didn't work at all.
Hundley had so much time he could read a "How-To-Pick USC Apart" manual in the pocket. Buck Allen, the Pac-12's leading rusher entering the game, staggered out of the gates for a season-low 60 yards. Heck, it was even getting so bad that Cody Kessler was taken under siege, as the Trojans allowed six sacks to a UCLA squad that only collected a measly 16 sacks entering the game.
You wanna talk about adjustments, USC made none. Hundley ran all over the Coliseum field last season, dominating in what was supposed to be the coming out party for interim coach Ed Orgeron and the "happy-go-lucky" USC Trojans. That was sure ugly, and UCLA made sure to rub it in after the game by running all over the USC logo right near midfield; which pissed off a fair share of Trojan boosters.
In 2012, the Bruins drove Matt Barkley right out of the game, and possibly a first- or second-round draft slot, clawing out an emotional win to snap the Trojans' five-year stranglehold on the series. Both those games were tough to swallow, but this past Saturday was almost expected.
The Bruins even gave away seven points on their first offensive possession, yet responded with absolute certainty they were going to win the game. Dancing up and down the field like the Pete Carroll-teams of old that tormented them in decades past, the Bruins responded on a 38-14 swing to end the game following the pick-six from Anthony Sarao. It's that unwavering level of confidence that makes USC fans upset, knowing that none of that exuberance, composure or sure-fire relentless rests on your sideline.
You know what's not up for debate? The smaller, less historic fan base in Westwood has gotten under the skin of the "Big Brother" across town. Which has created quite the feud in Los Angeles over when the USC Trojan empire will strike back against the calm, cool and confident UCLA Bruins.
Evan Budrovich is a senior at the University of Southern California. He has a passion for the 49ers, Dodgers baseball and all things USC athletics. Follow him on Twitter: @evanbud