The two University of Southern California and UCLA basketball teams face off in a key Pac-12 conference match. Both USC and UCLA have struggled recently, but they both look to rebound against the other side this week. For one team it’s time to turn around their season while for the other it will be about proving that last year was just an aberration, not a trend
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) — By the customary norms of Los Angeles’ largest rivalry game, the stakes of the 91st Crosstown Showdown are quite modest.
Under Chip Kelly, UCLA has already earned bowl eligibility for the first time, but the Bruins’ record (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) and recent performance aren’t very encouraging.
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 30: USC Trojans’ Jaxson Dart #2 passes during the first half against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California on October 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Harry How) )
Southern California (4-5, 3-4) is still in the midst of its season-long search for a permanent head coach, with a significant likelihood of missing out on a bowl game.
When two teams separated by 13 miles of motorways meet with every player wearing their colorful home jerseys, the enthusiasm is indescribable. Hundreds of players on both teams were high school classmates or grew up in the big Los Angeles metroplex, and the familiarity fosters excitement rather than hate.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson stated, “Everybody wants to defeat their opponent and have those bragging rights.” “I believe there is a little more passion, a little more juice, and a little more vitality,” she says.
The shortcomings of the current season will be eclipsed by the possibility to raise the Victory Bell when the Bruins meet the Trojans at the Coliseum on Saturday.
USC linebacker Drake Jackson remarked, “When it comes to UCLA, yeah, we always have a lot of energy.” “All we want to do now is go out there….” Allow them to speak for themselves. “We’ll see them when we see them.”
Despite the fact that neither club is competing for a conference championship or even a good season, there are still a lot of stakes. The Bruins are aiming to play their way into an upper-tier bowl game, which would almost certainly guarantee Kelly another season, while the Trojans might utilize this victory to avoid having one of the poorest records in the history of this West Coast powerhouse.
Many UCLA players who weren’t there for the Bruins’ previous victory against the Trojans in 2018 will find it especially important. Thompson-Robinson was a freshman at the time, although he scarcely played in the win before going on to lose UCLA’s last two games as a starter.
UCLA senior cornerback Qwuantrezz Knight said, “It’s certainly been a game I have highlighted on my calendar, mostly because it’s a rivalry.” “That game is something that every child in this program is looking forward to.” It may be used for anything. It’s all for the sake of bragging rights. It’s for determining who is in charge of the city.
Jaxson Dart, a freshman quarterback for USC, is making his first career start in lieu of Kedon Slovis, who had won both of his previous meetings with UCLA. Slovis is sidelined with a lower-leg ailment that hasn’t healed despite additional rest last week owing to the Trojans’ game against California being postponed.
Slovis has beaten the Bruins twice, breaking a single-game school record with 515 yards passing as a freshman in 2019 and then winning it last year with a last-second touchdown pass. Dart is new to the rivalry, but he’s picked up on it quickly.
“I simply didn’t realize how serious the competition was,” Dart said. “I wasn’t aware of the rivalry growing up since I’m from Utah, but now I see it.” Emotions are at an all-time high. It’s for the benefit of the city.”
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GAME ON THE GROUND
On Saturday, November 13, 2021, UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1 jumps for a first down against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter of an NCAA Football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. (Image courtesy of Getty Images/Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News) )
UCLA’s rushing assault has been a harbinger of success this season, with the Bruins running for at least 200 yards in each of their six wins. The Trojans’ defense is in the middle of the pack in terms of run defense, but they allow almost 400 total yards per game.
ON TOP OF THAT, THERE ARE TROJANS.
UCLA has only won five of the previous 22 Crosstown Showdowns since 1999, with four of those victories coming in the last nine years. Worryingly for the Bruins, who have only won once in their past 11 trips to the Coliseum.
Overall, USC leads the rivalry 51-32-7, with the Trojans losing just 13 times against unranked UCLA teams. When the Trojans enter a game with a record below.500, they are even 6-4-1.
LONDON IS MISSING
Slovis isn’t the only Trojan to be absent from this matchup: standout receiver Drake London is out for the season due to a fractured ankle, and the Trojans are still figuring out how to replace his unrivaled output.
After London’s injury, Gary Bryant Jr. was thrust into the starting lineup, and Kyle Ford has stepped up. After missing three games due to injury, tight end Michael Trigg is back in practice this week.
Kelly feels UCLA will be ready for whatever the Trojans do with Dart and his receivers.
“They operate in that offensive by seeing what you express defensively and then countering what you’re trying to counter,” Kelly said. “If you’re going to stuff the box, their method is that they’ll toss it away.” But if you back off and play it extremely loose, they’ll run with it.”
Putting Dart aside, the majority of the USC players remembers last season’s matchup fondly. The Trojans’ 43-38 win in a thriller in an empty Rose Bowl featured an outstanding solo performance by London on a 65-yard touchdown, which was completed by Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 8-yard touchdown reception with 16 seconds left.
“Man, I remember the entire game clearly,” said Chris Steele, a cornerback for the USC Trojans. “That was an absolutely fantastic game.” As a Trojan, this is probably one of my favorite games, so I’m looking forward to stacking them.”
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