LOS ANGELES -- It's USC vs. UCLA time, always one of the best weeks of the year for anyone involved with the rivalry.
This is one of those games where it's said that you can throw out the records, because there is no motivation necessary beyond the thought of beating your neighbor. That is certainly true, but it's also nice when there is something tangible at stake beyond bragging rights.
This year there is more at stake -- a lot more. For the Trojans, it's a chance to finish off a resurgent season in style and reach an impressive 10-win mark. For the Bruins, a victory gives them a berth in the inaugural Pac-12 title game as the South Division representative.
Each team will play into the strength of the opponent. The Trojans' passing attack has been terrific lately, led by quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, while the UCLA pass defense is currently No. 3 in the conference. The Bruins counter with a "pistol" offense that features a pair of productive tailbacks. They'll face a USC rush defense that is also No. 3 in the conference.
The coaching matchup is one area where this game is different, as Lane Kiffin is on the upswing right now with the Trojans, while UCLA's Rick Neuheisel might need a win in this game to save his job.
Recent history points to the Trojans -- USC has won four in a row against its counterparts from Westwood and 11 of the past 12. Of course, the one win for the Bruins in that time frame -- 2006 -- was a big one, so big it kept the Trojans out of the national title game. Kiffin was the USC offensive coordinator for that game, and the memory of that result stays with him to this day.
Whenever you have two schools in the same town, there are bound to be times when family and school loyalties get crossed. It's one of the aspects of the rivalry that makes it so great. This year is certainly no exception, with fathers and brothers on different sides of the field.
USC tailback Marc Tyler got a lot of running ability from his father, Wendell, but he didn't follow him to his school of choice. Wendell starred at UCLA from 1973-76 as an All-Pac-10 back who led the Bruins to a Rose Bowl win.
Trojans defensive end Wes Horton and his brother Shane -- a USC linebacker -- make it doubly tough in the rooting department for their father Myke, a two-year letterman at offensive tackle for the Bruins from 1973-74.
USC free safety T.J. McDonald doesn't have to worry about going against his father's school, as Tim McDonald was a two-time All-American safety at USC during his career from 1983-86. T.J.'s younger brother Tevin, however, lines up at safety for the Bruins. Things are going to be hard at the dinner table for Tevin if USC comes away with another victory.
There is a chance that Trojans strong safety Marshall Jones could have the opportunity to tackle his younger brother Malcolm -- a sophomore running back for the Bruins. Both players are reserves for their teams, but if they get a chance to meet on the field it will be a continuation of many living-room wars that have been fought through the years.
When Matt Barkley approaches the line of scrimmage and scans the defense, he will see a very familiar face lining up in the secondary for the Bruins.
Junior cornerback Andrew Abbott played with Barkley at Santa Ana Mater Dei (Calif.) High School before joining UCLA as a walk-on. Abbott earned a scholarship before the 2010 season and is second in the conference with four interceptions.
When Barkley was a high-school junior, Abbott was part of a group of talented wide receivers who helped him win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award -- the first time a junior had been awarded the prestigious honor. Abbott had 46 catches for 790 yards (17.1 yards per catch average) with eight touchdowns during the 2007 season, but that didn't lead the Monarchs. The top receiver that year was Barkley's cousin Robbie Boyer -- currently a junior wide receiver for the Trojans -- who had 57 catches for 1,026 yards (18 ypc average) and 14 touchdowns.
Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 1997. He can be reached at email@example.com.