- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).
Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 13.
Saturday, Nov. 22
Arizona at Utah
Washington State at Arizona State
USC at UCLA
Colorado at Oregon
Oregon State at Washington
Stanford at California
My choice: USC at UCLA
Why: Steve Sarkisian was brought to USC for one sole purpose – to regain the glory of the program. The first step toward that is re-establishing dominance in their backyard. Because for the past two seasons, the Bruins have been the dominant team in the Los Angeles.
It was only three seasons ago (2011), that the Trojans were smacking the Bruins around to the tune of 50-0 – their fifth straight win in the series. But that all changed when Jim Mora and Co. topped the Trojans, 38-28, in Pasadena in 2012 and then marched into the Coliseum and whooped USC, 35-14, last year. The power shift was as blunt as an Anthony Barr blindside sack.
Cue Sarkisian, a top lieutenant of the Pete Carroll era who brought Washington out of obscurity and is now trying to resuscitate a USC program that hasn’t been bad -- but it hasn’t lived up to expectations, either. And there isn't much time for a honeymoon. The expectation is to win -- and beat rivals -- immediately.
By Week 13, Brett Hundley should be in the thick of a Heisman race while the Bruins will likely be trying to wrap up the South Division for the third time in four seasons (yes, USC fans, the Pac-12 blog recognizes the asterisk of 2011, relax). Question is, will USC be trying to do the same?
Nothing would spark this rivalry more than both L.A. schools battling for the South crown. The Trojans should be well-established with their new up-tempo scheme and Nelson Agholor is one of the most dynamic receivers in the country, making his game-within-the-game battle with Fabian Moreau and the UCLA secondary that much more thrilling.
There are plenty of compelling story lines within this game. But none better than the simple fact that an outstanding USC-UCLA rivalry is a good thing for the Pac-12. When both teams in the conference’s largest market are ranked, that’s a good thing. And when both teams are fighting tooth and nail (along with the rest of the conference and country) for the top recruits in Southern California, it ups the ante for everyone.
Right now, UCLA is THE team in Los Angeles. It’s been a while since anyone has said that. Sarkisian, whose hiring was met with a courteous golf clap, could go a long way toward reuniting a fractured fan base with a victory over UCLA. On the flip side, Mora could further carve out his legacy with a three-peat.
You can see the rest of the road trip here.