Somewhere I have a book on college sports rivalries that doesn't even include UCLA-USC. Whoever wrote it must not have been in Southern California during the week the two schools meet for football. Those with an actual connection to one or the other school -- I attended UCLA off and on '61-'67, didn't get a degree but learned a lot -- get a little crazy, and locals without a real tie tend to choose up sides as well. During the 1960s -- Zeno, Beban, Prothro, O.J., John McKay -- you really could throw the record away -- it was going to be a tough, hard-fought game decided at the end. Maybe it's not a "great" rivalry because it goes through periods of one-sidedness -- UCLA has won only once during the Pete Carroll era, a win that shocked everybody.
This year I'm trying not to set myself up, but I'm hardly the only one who thinks UCLA has a solid chance. At USC, losing 8 defensemen to the first two rounds of the NFL draft and having a true freshman querterback finally took their toll, most recently in those embarrassing losses to Oregon and Stanford. They had a bye week last weekend and I'm sure Carroll will have them prepared to see beating the Bruins as redemption, and they probably have the raw talent to do it, if Barkley is on.
However, after a miserable middle with 5 Pac-10 losses, the Bruins have regrouped and won their last three games. I'm still concerned that we can't seem to score a touchdown in the red zone -- the two touchdowns against Arizona State both came from defensive takeaways -- but the defense is playing very well, and Prince at least seems able to get the offense within field goal range. We're remembering the Neuheisel has built winners wherever he has coached. I'm wearing the colors all week and looking forward to a good game.