Clay Helton (USA Today)

Game Week: USC Facts and Factors

Nov. 24 -- The Pac-12 South championship is on the line, and the Trojans are looking to salvage a tumultuous season...

• UCLA travels 13 miles east to play in the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday against its rival, USC.  The game kicks off at 12:30 PST, and will be televised by ABC/ESPN2.

• UCLA is 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Pac-12 South.  USC is 7-4, and also 5-3 in the Pac-12 South.  UCLA, USC and Utah are all tied for the Pac-12 South lead.

• UCLA leapt back into the rankings this week after its road win over Utah, now ranked #22 and #23.  USC, after its loss to Oregon, fell out of the rankings.

• Of course, as everyone knows, both UCLA and USC control their own destiny.  Whoever wins the game Saturday wins the Pac-12 South and will face Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game Saturday, Dec. 5th, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

• USC leads the all-time series, 44-31-7 (USC wins in 2004 and 2005 were vacated due to NCAA penalties).   UCLA has won the last three meetings, which means Jim Mora has never lost to the Trojans.

• Mora’s win against USC in the Coliseum in 2013 was the Bruins’ first since 1997. 

• UCLA holds the longest win streak in the series, winning 8 straight games between 1991 and 1998. 

• When both teams are playing for a conference championship in the rivalry game, the all-time record is tied at 10-10-1.  That is, if you don’t count 1947, when, with a win, UCLA could have secured a four-way tie for the PCC championship. 

• The Trojans have yet to play in the Pac-12 title game. USC finished first in the Pac-12 South in 2011, but could not play in that inaugural contest because of its NCAA sanctions, and UCLA took its place.

• UCLA has won 9 of its last 10 conference road games and 14 of its last 15 played away from the Rose Bowl.

• UCLA is 17-5 in true road games under Mora. 

Jordan Payton became the all-time leader for career receptions at UCLA last week against Utah.  He has 194 catches, which moved him ahead of Craig Bragg, who had 193 from 2001-2004.

• By keeping Utah, Oregon State and UNLV out of the endzone this season, this year’s UCLA defense is the first to hold three opponents without a touchdown since the 1998 season.

•  Clay Helton, USC’s offensive coordinator, is interim head coach after Steve Sarkisian was fired October 12th. Sarkisian was let go due to a very public alcohol problem, being drunk at a preseason event, and then before a practice in early October.  Helton (43) is 4-2 this season.  Interestingly, it’s actually Helton’s second time acting as USC’s interim head coach; he did so in 2013, too, when the preceding interim coach, Ed Orgeron, quit before the team’s bowl game.  It was generally believed that Helton, after losing to Notre Dame in mid-October, would have had to win out to have a chance to retain the head coaching job.  After a loss last week to Oregon, odds are that USC will look elsewhere for its head coach.  But he still has a chance – that is, if he can guide USC to a win over USC and probably also a win over Stanford in the Pac-12 South Championship.  And there’s always the possibility that USC doesn’t find anyone it deems better and the job falls to Helton. 

• It’s amazingly twice in three years that USC has had an interim coach for a big portion of its season.  Defensive line coach Orgeron worked as interim coach for the 2013 season after USC fired Lane Kiffin five games into the season.

• There are many rumors swirling about who the front-runners are for the USC head coaching job.  Baltimore Ravens’ Jon Harbaugh, Philadelphia Eagles’ Chip Kelly, and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops are some of the big names tossed around.  Even Pete Carroll is being mentioned as returning to USC.   The inside word is that, while USC has some big-named guys in mind, it’s still in wait-and-see mode, with so many coaching developments bound to happen that will affect USC’s coaching candidate pool.  There were rumors that Mora would be a candidate but that’s not a realistic scenario. 

• USC’s 2016 recruiting class is in wait-and-see mode too.  So many of USC’s verbal commitments had indicated they’d stay committed if Helton and much of the current staff were retained.  Since that’s now very unlikely, many of USC’s recruits are more open to going elsewhere.  Of course, once USC makes its head-coaching hire, those same recruits will mostly all consider USC again.  But the new staff will have to quickly build relationships with the recruits in the short time between when they’re hired and National Signing Day. 

• The NCAA, in all its short-sighted glory, had a rule prohibiting two teams from wearing their home jerseys when they play each other. UCLA and USC had traditionally done so, since 1949,  but when UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1983, the visiting team then had to wear its visitors’ jersey.  In 2008, UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and USC’s Pete Carroll agreed to both take a penalty (lose a timeout) to renew the tradition.  Because of this, the NCAA relented and amended their rule. 

• Tonight (Tuesday), UCLA will hold its annual Beat ‘SC Bonfire and Rally at Wilson Plaza (near Janss Steps).  Last year, Mora dropped an f-bomb, but he wasn’t intoxicated. 

• The winner of the game, of course, gets to keep the Victory Bell for the next year. The bell was originally from a Southern Pacific train that was given to the UCLA student body in 1939.  USC, then, stole it in 1941, and in 1942 it was designated that the winner of the football game would get the bell for the next season. Whoever wins the bell paints its frame either blue or red.  It’s been blue since 2012.

• The BMW Crosstown Cup is awarded to the school that accumulates the most points in the varions Bruins-Trojans athletic competitions over a school year.  UCLA current leads USC at 20-15, with the winner of the football game getting 10 points. 

• UCLA Is 14-9 against USC when the Bruins are ranked higher than the Trojans.  The last time a higher-ranked Bruin team lost to USC was in 2001.

• USC is favored by 3 ½ points.

• The weather forecast calls for a high of 60 degrees Saturday, and mostly sunny skies.

 


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