It’s crazy to predict this game, it’s crazy to risk an outpouring of ridicule if you get it wrong, it’s crazy to try to predict the closest cross-town rivalry in years – crazy, crazy, crazy.
Do it anyway.
Doing it because UCLA does it.
And here comes USC, roll alongthree wins away from possibly a playoff spot of their own, no losses here, just a blindingly bright future and…
And that’s when UCLA knocks the lights out of USC.
However, they are better now.
That’s not to say that UCLA has the best football program. It is not so. That doesn’t mean UCLA can win and suddenly claim dominance in the city. Of course it can’t.
It’s not “Westwood, Ho» A 21-year-old prediction column, parts of which are still mockingly shouted at a certain columnist as he walks through the Coliseum seats, thank you very much.
USC has 11 national championships in football; UCLA has one. USC has seven Heisman Trophy winners; UCLA has one.
Now and perhaps forever, on college football fields from Pasadena to Exposition Park, USC still owns the city.
But UCLA will own Saturday night.
Riley has seemingly put the Trojans on a path to greatness, but they’re not there yet.
The Bruins will own him and save the rejuvenated Chip Kelly from another offseason of skepticism and derision, to stop everyone from wondering why he’s still here and what Martin Jarmond was thinking.
There has been no harsher criticism of Kelly than in this space, but in this fifth season he has become active and innovative and perhaps even inspirational.
UCLA will own Saturday because The Bruins have a better quarterbacka five-year veteran who lives for these moments, a kid who is literal prevented his path to greatness in last year’s game, when his team tied the rivalry record with 62 points on the Trojans.
The Bruins will own Saturday’s game because they have a Heisman-worthy running back, a bulky, rolling rock who has averaged nearly eight yards every time he touches the ball this season.
The Bruins will own Saturday because their smart and suffocating offensive line consists of four seniors and graduates opening up such gigantic holes that the team has 402 rushing yards against Arizona State and Charbonnet didn’t even play.
Riley’s offensive mind is second to none, but UCLA’s offense — statistically and practically — is actually better.
The Bruins will finally take over Saturday because their defense, unlike USC’s, is not the scum of the earth.
UCLA can really rush the passer. UCLA can even stop the run once in a while. UCLA doesn’t have as many great options as USC and actually has a pretty bad overall defense. But USC’s defense — which has given up more than 500 yards in consecutive games this season — is even worse.
Special teams? UCLA has an on-field coach dedicated to this important phase of the game. USC does not. The case is closed.
A season that began with USC grabbing all the headlines — this columnist even wrote that they may be the best team in this country — turned into an unforgettable fall for UCLA.
The Bruins are a pretty amazing 8-2 with strong wins against then-No. 15 Washington and then-No. 11 Utah. The Trojans, meanwhile, are 9-1 but winless in the top 25.
While USC is playing for a spot in the national playoff, UCLA is playing for a more realistic and just as durable prize. The Bruins may not win the national title, but they are three wins short of playing in their first Rose Bowl in 24 years.
The University of California, Los Angeles has the most to play with no fear of this USC team that is short on talent. The more glamorous neighbors of the Bruins will not be intimidated. Their culture has been upgraded with confidence since last season’s 62-33 victory. They know they can do it.
“We know we’re going to do it again,” Bruins defenseman Mo Osling III told reporters Saturday night. “We’re going to have a little bit of fire under our butts. Go there and just put it on display.’
In front of a real Rose Bowl crowd, which should be roaring live, this display will end with a light-up scoreboard, which can be seen here first.
UCLA 42, USC 35.
Crazy? Anything but.