Video: 2013 Crosstown Showdown preview

Of late, the USC-UCLA rivalry has been a unique one. First of all, in 2011 with USC still under sanctions and ineligible to participate in postseason play, the Trojans put a 50-0 whooping on the Bruins. Subsequently, UCLA made its way to the Pac-12 Championship Game with its tail between its legs. A season later, the 2012 game featured a complete role reversal in which USC was facing a disappointing season and UCLA was the upstart with a shot at redemption. Heading into that tilt, both teams had a shot at winning the South Division and a spot in the championship game. And then UCLA rolled. Indeed, the last few meetings between these two have been interesting, and Saturday should prove no less interesting than any other game in this storied rivalry.

Series History: Just 12 miles apart (though the Rose Bowl is pretty isolated), this rivalry is the closest, geographically, in the conference. They’re playing for the Victory Bell, which was initially a gift to the UCLA student body. And then it was stolen by a group of USC students and that, my friends, is how rivalry is born. Or at least propagated. Today the Bell is passed back and forth to the game’s winner and protected by the victorious student body. This game has been won by USC 46 times, UCLA 29 times, and seven times they’ve tied. As noted above, UCLA won the most recent contest, 38-28, its first win in the series since 2006.

Memorable Moment: As these two schools have won or shared 33 of 48 conference titles since the league's inception, there’s no doubt plenty of classic moments. But the moment that stands out has got to be O.J. Simpson’s 64-yard, game winning touchdown run in the contest coined “The Game of the Century.” (This was in the days before every SEC game was dubbed such). It was 1967 and UCLA was ranked No. 1 in the land and USC was No. 2. The game was to be played at the Coliseum with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line. Late in the game, UCLA missed a critical extra point and shortly thereafter Simpson would break loose for the game winner. The Trojan extra point was good and USC won, 21-20.

Traditions: At USC, the Trojans host CONQUEST every Thursday before this rivalry game. It’s a pep rally of sorts and serves to rile up an already excitable fan base. After all, it’s Troy Week on campus. Conversely, at UCLA, "Blue and Gold Week" leading up to the game is a time for Bruin fans and athletes to excite themselves before the Battle for Los Angeles.

Three Players to Watch for USC:

  1. Nelson Agholor – Emerging as a terrific option for QB Cody Kessler, Agholor leads the Trojans in receptions (47), receptions yards (789)  and touchdown receptions (4). He also returns punts for Coach O, where he’s added two additional touchdowns and averages an outstanding 23 yards per return.
  2. Devon Kennard – The senior linebacker was recently named a Lott IMPACT Trophy Finalist. Which basically means he’s a great guy and a great football player. He leads the Trojans in sacks and is a team captain.
  3. Javorius Allen – While much of the Trojan running attack has been executed by committee, Allen has stood out as the scorer. He’s collected 11 touchdowns for the Trojans, including three last week in their stomping of Colorado in the snow.

Three Players to Watch for UCLA:

  1. Myles Jack – He’d already wowed us defensively before exploding onto the scene as a running threat against Arizona. Then he followed that up with a four-touchdown performance against Washington. Through each of those two games, Jack played on both sides of the ball before settling into an offense-only role against ASU. He rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown in that game.
  2. Anthony Barr – Similarly to Jack, Barr began his career on the side of the football he’s not best known for. In his junior season, Barr made the move to defense, where he’s thrived. In his senior year, he’s second on the team with 85 tackles and leads the team with 13.5 sacks.
  3. Brett Hundley – This powerful QB has been critical to UCLA and coach Jim Mora’s success. He’s rushed for 702 yards (second most on the team) and passed for 3740 yards, including 26 TDs. He’s averaging 292.5 total yards of offense and we could go on. Brett Hundley is good.