Our countdown continues with No. 8:
No. 8: USC at UCLA, November 19
This past season, the Trojans brought balance back to a rivalry that had tilted in the Bruins’ favor. UCLA entered the Coliseum on a three-game winning streak against their crosstown enemies, but they staggered back home as 40-21 losers. The Bruins continued their bad habit of blowing a chance at the Pac-12 South title in the final week of the regular season, and USC punched a ticket to Levi's Stadium instead.
It'd be a fool's errand to forecast the South at this point -- parity has turned that division into an unpredictable minefield -- but we can assume that there's a solid chance the next battle of Los Angeles will have significant postseason implications. And since this game is a compelling one in southern California even when neither team is a title contender, it safely makes this list.
The 2016 installment should be particularly interesting. While Clay Helton tries to steer the USC ship back toward the waters of dominance, Josh Rosen is gunning to accomplish the same thing in his second year at UCLA. By the time this one rolls around in November, we'll have a solid feel of just how well those two endeavors are going for both programs. And this game, as it usually is, will be a major determinant of the season's success for both parties.
The Trojans pounded the Bruins on the ground in their last win, rushing 59 times for 235 yards. Though UCLA was sturdier against the run than they would be a few weeks later versus Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, they still lost the physical battle at the point of attack -- a recurrent problem for the Bruins throughout the course of 2015. Helton promises to maintain the smash-mouth style that he encouraged after taking over for Steve Sarkisian at USC, so this game will be a good gauge as to whether or not the Bruins actually toughen up in 2016.
It'll also be a measuring stick game for Rosen. The highly touted freshman played well in his first season, but he was nothing special in the loss to the Trojans. This is a rivalry that can define college careers -- remember that Brett Hundley went a perfect 3-0 against USC, something that he'll certainly be remembered for in Westwood -- so Rosen needs to win if he's to build a sound legacy.
The winner of this game has often proclaimed "ownership" of Los Angeles. The Bruins carried the flag for a stretch -- though USC's Zach Banner claimed UCLA was simply "renting" the city -- and now the bragging rights are back with the Trojans. How it all unfolds moving forward will be particularly interesting, especially since the parity that has defined the Pac-12 as of late seems to have taken an especially strong hold in Los Angeles.