Rivalry Week is here

We now sit less than a week away from another installment of this rivalry and the anticipation is already starting to grow. There are few sights more magical than the Coliseum for a USC vs UCLA game and you can be sure that Trojan fans will be ready for this one. We all know what is at stake with a victory but those thoughts are for another day.

Well, the intrigue of the USC vs UCLA week has officially begun with the injury to Trojan running back LenDale White on Sunday. So far there has been no word as to the severity of the injury although the fact that LenDale left Heritage Hall last night without his shoulder in a brace is hopefully a good sign that it's nothing major. That hasn't stopped the cries of "measles" from some Bruin fans as they recall the infamous game in the late 80's when Rodney Peete battled the measles all week only to rally in time for the game to come out and lead the Trojans to victory.

Such back and forth gamesmanship is a normal part of this rivalry as both sides are looking for any edge possible while trying to catch the opponent from gaining any advantage at the same time. It's a different environment than the one we see each year for the Notre Dame game. The annual battle with the Irish is about tradition, it's about a place in college football lore. The UCLA game is about a serious dislike for your neighbor. Living in Southern California you simply don't run into as many Irish fans or alumni in the course of the year as you do with the Bruins and that's one of the things that makes this rivalry so unique.

For Trojan fans, it has been good to see both rivalry games at such heights this year. The game against Notre Dame speaks for itself as many were calling it one of the greatest college football games of all time. Now the Bruins come in to the Coliseum with only one loss on the season and, one would assume, a genuine belief that they can hang with the Trojans. The environment and hype as the game approaches should be electric and it's a lot more fun to see it this way as opposed to two years ago when the game was over before it ever started. Walking around the Coliseum before the 2003 game there was no sense of anticipation from the UCLA fans, no belief that they had a chance to win and that attitude was evident in their team for the entire game. That's not what the USC vs UCLA game is supposed to be about.

Of course, the first time this writer can ever recall seeing one team quit in this rivalry came in 2001 during Pete Carroll's first year when the Trojans laid a 27-0 whipping on the Bruins in one of the most satisfying displays of football you will ever see. Just a few short weeks before that game the Trojans were 2-5 and some Los Angeles newspaper columnists were saying that the tide had turned in Southern California in terms of college football dominance. What happened on that day, however, set the tone for the remarkable run that the Trojans have been on and it gave USC fans an incredible sense of satisfaction to see the Bruins dominated in such fashion. It wasn't a game similar to the types of explosive blowouts we have come to see from current Trojan teams, the USC point total included a defensive touchdown courtesy of Antuan Simmons and a late score on a beautiful run from Chris Howard, yet the outcome was determined earlier than anticipated. The Trojan offense featured Carson Palmer at QB (but he wasn't Carson Palmer the Heisman winner yet) and a converted fullback carrying the ball in Sunny Byrd who wasn't going to be confused with Reggie Bush in terms of dazzling runs. What the Trojans did on that day was slowly and methodically choke the life out of the Bruins to the point where the Bruins simply gave up. When Simmons pulled in the interception after wrapping the ball between his legs, he dashed toward the end zone while Brian Poli-Dixon simply sat and watched. When Byrd lowered his shoulder and delivered a blow to Matt Ware, we saw Matt jog to the sideline with his damaged shoulder hanging down as he was done for the day. It was the first real example we saw of a Pete Carroll Trojan team taking the fight to the opponent, something that has now become commonplace, and it was pure joy to watch.

We now sit less than a week away from another installment of this rivalry and the anticipation is already starting to grow. There are few sights more magical than the Coliseum for a USC vs UCLA game and you can be sure that Trojan fans will be ready for this one. We all know what is at stake with a victory but those thoughts are for another day. Right now it is all about beating the Bruins and sitting back in the fourth quarter with the sounds of the Trojan Marching Band echoing throughout the stadium as they play "Tusk" with the accompanying chant recognizing our guests from Westwood.


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