Mike Lamb: Offensive line (1979-83): “My memories of the rivalry are that it was back-and-forth every year. One year people were talking about Terry Donahue getting fired because we beat them 49-14, the next year we lost when Jeff Fisher went for the pick and Freeman McNeil went the other way. The next year George Achica tips the field goal, and the year after that Karl Morgan gets the sack. It was as back-and-forth and emotional as you could possibly get; the very definition of a rivalry. It was an absolute roller-coaster for anybody who was part of it.”
John Jackson: Wide receiver (1985-89) on the 25th anniversary of the 1989 game: “That game is a horrible memory. The tide had turned in favor of SC when we faced them in 1989. They had a window in 1987-88 when they had Troy Aikman, Ken Norton and those guys and we beat them both years, and when we played them in '89 we were already locked into the Rose Bowl so that wasn't on the line. It wasn’t the reason the game ended in a tie but that was one of those games where we felt in control but the scoreboard never said it. We were driving for the winning score and we fumbled, they turned around and had their best/only drive of the day and had a shot to win at the end but the field goal attempt hit the upright. The plays were there to be made for us but something went wrong all day long.”
Jeremy Hogue: Offensive line (1991-95): “My memories aren’t very good because I played when things were on the wrong side, despite having what I still believe were the better teams. In those games, it just didn’t matter. My senior year is probably the one that sticks with me the most because the week before we had clinched the Pac-10 title and the berth in the Rose Bowl to play Northwestern. There was nothing else to play for against UCLA except the fact that it was UCLA. For me and my teammates it was more than enough but for UCLA it was all they were playing for. They came at us, we didn’t play as well as we could and we ended up losing the game. I’ll never forget doing a volunteer clinic the next offseason and it was at UCLA, I walked in the door and there was a big sign saying "City Champs." I remember thinking that we had won the Rose Bowl, we were the conference champs but all they cared about was being City Champs, and there’s something to be said for that.”
Darrell Rideaux: Cornerback (1999-2002): “The memory that sticks out to me is in 1999, when I was a true freshman filling in for an injured Antaun Simmons. I had to go up against Fast Freddie Mitchell, they didn’t call him Fast Freddie because of his speed, they called him Fast Freddie because he ran his mouth the whole game. He would talk all the time between plays, “Man, I’ve got shoes taller than you.” There was a moment in the third quarter, he was running a fade up the sideline, I got underneath him and deflected a pass. It was a moment that made me feel as if I had arrived because it was a play that stopped a key drive.”
Coach Steve Sarkisian said cornerback Josh Shaw, who missed the first 10 games of the season after lying about how he sprained both of his ankles, would be available Saturday in some role for the Trojans (No. 19 CFP, No. 24 AP).
Sarkisian didn't indicate just how much he expects Shaw to play against the Bruins (No. 9 CFP; No. 11 AP), but he did note that the fifth-year senior has not appeared rusty in his first week back at practice.
"He's an experienced guy, he's played a lot of football, so he's able to grasp things quickly," Sarkisian told the Los Angeles Times. "His muscle memory of how to align or how to move out of a certain break isn't as difficult for somebody who is new to doing it."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Shaw owns six career interceptions and is USC's most physically imposing cornerback. If he is indeed able to significantly contribute by Saturday, the Trojans could be in for a big boost against the explosive, up-tempo UCLA offense led by Brett Hundley.
Washington State at Arizona State, Pac-12 Network
One word: early. This game kicks off at 11 a.m. local time, but keep in mind that the Cougars' body clocks will still be set to the Pacific time zone. Mike Leach said that Washington State's hotel pregame routine will start between 5 and 6 a.m. It'll be a chance for fans to watch the Pac-12 while munching on pancakes, French toast, or -- my favorite -- crab Benedict. And it'll be a chance for ASU to wash away the horrible memory of last week's 35-27 loss at Oregon State as quickly as possible.
Arizona at Utah, ESPN
By lunchtime, there should be a craving for a good dose of backfield pressure. #SackLackCity should be a fun place for the Wildcats' Scooby Wright to visit: He's ranked in the top three nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, so why not put him on the same field as the Utes' Nate Orchard, who's currently at the top of the sack heap? Defensive star power is the name of the game here, but keep an eye on Arizona's Anu Solomon: He must step up to the challenge of the Rice-Eccles crowd.
Stanford at Cal, Fox Sports 1
Stanford's offense has been bad, but the Cardinal have found a way to score against shaky defenses this season (they've been terrible in games against ranked teams, averaging only 11.4 points per regulation in those contests). Well, good news for the Cardinal: The Golden Bears are worse than shaky on defense (39.2 points, 518 yards per game). Bad news for Stanford: Cal is at home, and it is smelling blood. Let's see what gives in the 117th Big Game. Oh, and that matchup between Jared Goff and Lance Anderson's top-ranked Cardinal defense isn't too shabby, either.
Colorado at Oregon, Pac-12 Network
The best team in the conference meets the worst team in the conference. Prediction-wise, that's about all that needs to be said about this one. Some extra, slightly unrelated food for thought: Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre asserted that the Pac-12 South was the best division in college football, better than even the SEC West. Imagine how absurdly strong the South would be if Oregon were in it, too (I bring this up only because the SEC's top team, Alabama, happens to reside in the powerful West).
USC at UCLA, ABC
Statues have been vandalized, airports have received photogenic lighting decorations, and statues have been arguably vandalized some more by duct tape (intended to protect them, but still, that's going to be a pain to remove, right?). The pregame rituals of rivalry week were fun, but it's time for some actual football with Pac-12 championship hopes on the line. The matchup of Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler is fascinating one, as is the battle between USC's frontline explosiveness and a UCLA machine that appears to be peaking at the right time.
Oregon State at Washington, ESPN
The Beavers need one more win to earn bowl eligibility for Sean Mannion in his senior season. It's amazing what one good week (paired with a bad one) can do: Both of these teams have lost four of their past five games, but the feeling surrounding Oregon State is much more positive than the one in Seattle. The Beavers notched a huge 35-27 upset win over ASU last weekend, while the Huskies dropped a bitter 27-26 decision to Arizona. Both have a chance to finish forgettable seasons on a high note.
USC at UCLA
As we do every Friday, we focus our attention on some picks. Only two weeks left (not counting the bowl games). Six are already bowl eligible, two more will punch their ticket this weekend (the winners of the Stanford-Cal and Oregon State-Washington games becomes bowl eligible). So we'll have at least eight. But nine or 10 are still mathematically possible. But we'll worry about that when we have to.
The Pac-12 blog released its picks Thursday morning. Chantel Jennings went against the grain in a couple of picks and Kyle Bonagura likes the Trojans. Other than that, pretty unanimous.
As we do every week, here are some predictions from folks who cover the conference and college football nationally.
The Fox Sports tandem of Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel both like the Bruins in a tight game. Here's what Feldman had to say:
Brett Hundley wrecked the Trojans last season with his legs and arm, and he was very sharp in carving up USC two years ago. Despite how well Cody Kessler, Nelson Agholor and Buck Allen are playing, my hunch is the Bruins have enough athletes on defense to contain them to get away with a win. UCLA 31, USC 30.
Here are some other thoughts:
- If you're looking for the kind of picks where points matter, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News says take the Cougs.
- The Sports Illustrated gang is mostly split on the Arizona-Utah game.
- Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman-Review likes Cal, regardless of the points.
- The Athlon folks are split on Cal-Stanford.
Injured Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday spoke about the specifics of his injury for the first time Thursday. We had one report here on the blog. He also shared his frustration over the injury and the hope that he'll be playing football again within five months, which would put him in line to participate in WSU's pro day.
Here's a quote from Halliday from a story in the Spokesman-Review:
I think the hardest thing was just how close I was to being healthy throughout the year, going to the combine, getting to do all that stuff. That’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I’ve been able to dream so that was the frustrating thing: I was just three games away from that.
Halliday was putting up monster numbers. We know this because he's still leading the Pac-12 in passing with 3,873 yards and 32 touchdown passes. Here's the full transcript of Halliday's conference call with the media.
- Scooby Wright is (rightfully so) gaining a lot of national attention.
- ASU seniors are preparing for their final home game.
- Jared Goff has grown into Cal's golden boy. (Sonny Dykes' words, not ours).
- Some questions and answers about the Buffs heading into the Oregon game.
- What do the new playoff rankings mean for the Ducks.
- Some over/under predictions for OSU-Washington.
- Despite a great defense, Stanford's season has been a disappointment.
- A look at how the Bruins can crash the playoff party.
- The Trojans have their sites set on stopping Paul Perkins.
- Hackett for Heisman probably won't pan out, but Utah's punter is one of the best in the country.
- The Huskies are doing some shuffling on the offensive line.
The Cal band continued its annual tradition of invading the San Francisco Chronicle, which is kind of funny.
I don't know what this is or what it does ... but I think I want one.
There's no hotter ticket for Southern California recruits than the one that gets them into the Rose Bowl this weekend, as USC travels across town to take on UCLA. Both programs have an opportunity to make a statement in front of what should be a star-studded group of recruits.
The Bruins and Trojans already have put together solid 2015 recruiting classes, as both rank among the top 20 programs in the country -- USC checks in at No. 13, UCLA at No. 18. This game won't make or break either recruiting class, but a win sure gives that staff some significant recruiting ammunition against what could be its biggest competition for several ESPN 300 prospects looking to make their decisions close to signing day.
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Second team, however is still up for grabs. And this weekend's rivalry game between USC and UCLA might move the debate. There are only two quarterbacks in the conference who are completing more than 70 percent of their throws -- UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (72.1) and USC quarterback Cody Kessler (70.2).
And while there are plenty of dynamic players on both sidelines, it's the quarterbacks who typically take center stage in this rivalry.
"I think a big part of deciding that stuff will be in this game," Kessler said. "Brett has played really well this year. He's one of my good friends and he's done a great job. I'm happy for him. This game will probably help define that. Not just the all-conference stuff. But some of the other awards and the Battle of L.A. thing. This game has a lot of emphasis on the quarterbacks and it's going to be a fun competition."
The league's two most accurate passers took different routes to get to where they are heading into Saturday. Hundley had a "competition" in the spring of 2012, but easily emerged as the starter before the season began and hasn't looked back since. Kessler's road has been more serpentine, as he had to win over two different coaching staffs (and multiple head coaches) along the way.
No one is going to confuse the two. They play very different styles, run different schemes and bring unique skill sets to their teams. But coaches who have seen both this season agree on the same thing: Both are very good at what they do.
"Very different style, but equally effective," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who was on the winning end of both games against the L.A. schools this season. "Both of them are tremendous talents. I believe both will play a long time in this sport beyond college. Kessler is more of a traditional, pocket, NFL-type guy. Hundley is very dynamic and can run the football as well as throw it. They are both great leaders and do a great job in their respective systems. Should be a great matchup."
Even the way they handle pressure is a contrast in styles. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Kessler is completing 57.4 percent of his throws when he's under duress, which is tops among Power 5 quarterbacks. Conversely, Hundley ranks second among Power 5 quarterbacks with 391 scramble yards. One sticks in the pocket, the other uses his legs to make plays downfield.
"I think that Kessler is really doing a nice job executing that offense and taking care of the ball and not making mistakes," said Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who dropped both games to USC and UCLA. "Hundley can make a lot of plays with his feet. In some ways, he's probably at his best when he can freelance a little bit. But he's certainly capable of being a pocket guy and he does that well. I think his talent really comes out more when he's forced to make some plays with his feet and sustain some plays. They are very different that way, but they are both playing at a high level with two different styles. But both are good at what they do."
It's also worth noting that both have very strong run games supporting them. USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen leads the conference with 1,184 rushing yards. UCLA's Paul Perkins is right on his heels with 1,169 yards.
And yet for as much credit as Kessler gets for staying in the pocket and Hundley for leaving it, both aren't too bad when the roles are reversed. Kessler will never be a tuck-and-run guy, but he can improvise if needed.
"He has that in his arsenal," USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. "… He probably doesn't get enough credit for being as good of an athlete as he is. But I think we'd all prefer for him to stay within the system and utilize his reads and throws."
And Hundley -- who leads all FBS quarterbacks in completion percentage -- has to be a good pocket passer for those kinds of numbers. And when the Bruins throw on first down, he's completing nearly three out of every four passes (74.8 percent).
Of course, these two aren't alone in the quest for all-conference honors. Cal's Jared Goff and Arizona's Anu Solomon will get strong consideration. Even injured Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday still leads the league with 32 touchdown passes and 3,873 yards.
But neither is all that concerned with that right now. Both teams are still fighting for the Pac-12 South title and a date with Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.
"There is always going to be a lot riding on this game," Hundley said. "It's the end of the season and typically both teams are doing well. This is usually the game where the South is decided and this year it's no different. We respect them as a team. They've put together a good season. We've done the same. It's two well-respected teams and we're going to go out there and put on a show."
However, for Baby Boomers rapidly approaching their upper oldies, Nov. 22 will always be a haunting memory of one of the darkest days in the history of our great country: the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
There was already excitement in the air that November week 51 years ago, because in 1963, like today, there wasn't anything more exciting than a college football game between USC and UCLA, two universities that reside just a little more than 12 freeway miles apart.
In 1962, the Bruins gave the eventual national champions and head coach John McKay all his No. 1 and undefeated Trojans could handle, and it took a miraculous, leaping fourth-quarter catch by running back/receiver Willie Brown to help ensure the Trojans would eventually defeat the stubborn Bruins of coach Bill Barnes 14-3.
So heading into the 1963 game, there was a lot of anticipation that the Bruins could take it a step further and knock off the defending national champions.
However, all thoughts regarding the 1963 game came to a shattering moment in time the day before the game, a Friday in which the world stopped.
I remember playing basketball at recess at Fremont Elementary School in Alhambra, California, with classmates Jimmy White, Brian Salisbury, Mario Carrillo and Ronnie Brock. In football, most everybody was a Trojans fan, and in basketball, thanks to John Wooden, everybody emulated the Bruins basketball team, which featured guards Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard.
Fremont Elementary, which is located about eight minutes from downtown L.A., was a special place for athletes, having been the home of late baseball Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner, with whom I had something in common, the same sixth-grade teacher, the patriotic Mrs. Edith Bloomingdale, wife of a former U.S. Naval officer.
An intense blacktop basketball game with no nets on the rims stopped on that infamous November Friday when a student came running out from one of the classrooms screaming hysterically that the president had been shot. Growing up in a politically active family, I immediately stopped playing and ran into a classroom with a black-and-white TV. In those days, TV and education together were considered a no-no unless being used to teach Spanish.
Breathless, I came across a number of teachers standing by the television tuned to CBS and legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite. It all seemed so dreamlike. I had always wondered from my previous history classes what it must have been like when Abraham Lincoln was shot, and now, unfortunately, I was getting it in real time.
All that was being reported over and over again was that three shots were fired at the presidential motorcade and Kennedy had been wounded, perhaps mortally. Cronkite said Kennedy had been taken to Parkland Hospital from Dealey Plaza, where the shooting had taken place.
To be etched in my Baby Boomer generation memory forever: Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll, Elm and Houston Street, the sixth floor of the Dallas School Depository Building, Love Field, Parkland Hospital and eventually the name Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old ex-Marine and the alleged assassin.
Instead of lasting memories of Trojans gridiron legends like Pete Beathard, Hal Bedsole and Damon Bame and UCLA's Larry Zeno, Mike Haffner and Mel Profit, thoughts concentrated on the events in Dallas.
While most of Fremont remained at recess as the news was being delivered in that classroom of 35 empty desks, the bell finally rang and everybody returned to their respective classrooms. It was so quiet walking down the halls as word quickly spread regarding the assassination attempt in Dallas. At least we all hoped it was an attempt.
Upon entering my classroom, Mr. Joseph Abraham Trumpeter Fields, my eighth-grade teacher with a thick New York accent, was mute and pale. As we all sat down in those highly uncomfortable wooden desks, Mr. Fields kept the lights off in the classroom, although it was totally sunny outside.
Nobody talked. Nobody wanted to talk. Everybody either stared or put their heads on their desk. Frankly, we were all scared. At that moment, the 1963 USC-UCLA game might as well have been played on Mars. Nobody cared.
Although in reality it was just several minutes, it seemed like hours went by with nobody saying a word. In those days, Los Angeles had only seven commercial stations, and all of them were taking the feeds either off CBS, NBC or ABC. There were no commercials -- none.
Suddenly and somberly, Mr. Hollis Stoa, another eighth-grade teacher, walked into our classroom and matter-of-factly said, "He's dead."
What had been a quiet classroom turned to quiet whimpering, then sobbing, and then just plain crying of emotional pain. Mr. Fields put both hands over his face to hide his emotions and wept. It was all too surreal.
Upon getting home that afternoon, instead of talking about the USC-UCLA football game scheduled for the next day, my UCLA dad and USC mom didn't say anything. We all gathered in front of the television and tried to make sense of it all. The country was told that Vice President Lyndon Johnson had been sworn in as president and was flying back to Washington D.C. along with the casket carrying President Kennedy.
While the country and the world were in a state of shock, suddenly the USC-UCLA football game was pointless given the circumstances. But how would it be handled?
McKay was adamant that no game be played and that it should be moved to another date. UCLA and the Coliseum Commission agreed, so the game was moved back until Nov. 30. How ironic that the Coliseum was also the same site that Kennedy accepted the Democratic party's nomination for president in 1960.
For the record, the Trojans handily defeated the Bruins a week later, 26-6, before 82,460 in the Coliseum. The game was probably a therapeutic distraction from the events in Dallas a week earlier, but the pain of Nov. 22 wasn't going away any time soon, whether you were a Trojans or a Bruins fan.
So now, a little more than two generations later, the Trojans and Bruins will have at it on a Nov. 22, and for most attending in the Rose Bowl there will be little to no hint of that dark day in Dallas so long ago.
But for those who lived it back in the day, forgive us for closing our eyes for a moment at Saturday's kickoff in the Arroyo Seco and giving pause.
1:00 PM ET Washington State 13 Arizona State 3:30 PM ET 15 Arizona 17 Utah 4:00 PM ET Stanford California 4:30 PM ET Colorado 2 Oregon 8:00 PM ET 19 USC 9 UCLA 10:30 PM ET Oregon State Washington