January 5th, 2013
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November 27th, 2012
Matt Barkley, the USC Trojans QB who decided not to enter the NFL draft and return for his senior season, will not win the Heisman Trophy this year, that much is sure. But, who will accept the Heisman bust this December?
Late in the season it appeared that Kansas State Wildcats do-everything QB Collin Klein might be the guy. However, an ugly 52-24 upset loss to Baylor on Nov. 17 leaves Klein’s possibility as a finalist looming. Mante Te’O, the Notre Dame LB, has had an amazing season (tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with seven) under a fair amount of duress. Te’O lost both his girlfriend and grandmother earlier in the season, not to mention the stress of having to face every opponent’s best shot week in and week out as the Irish finished the season unbeaten.
The front-runner, however, for college football’s top award is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manzeil. The redshirt freshman has led the Aggies to a remarkable 10-2 record including an upset win over then top-ranked Alabama. Manziel, or “Johnny Football” as he has become known, is one of just a handful of quarterbacks who have thrown for over 3,000 yards and ran for over 1,000 in the same season. He leads the SEC in rushing with 1,181 yards and has run for 19 touchdowns.
When new head coach Kevin Sumlin took over, it appeared that the Aggies would be rebuilding while they entered the mighty SEC. After a season-opening loss to Florida, Texas A&M reeled off five straight wins and the legend of “Johnny Football” began to rise. If anyone needs validation that Manziel is deserving of the Heisman, watch the game film of the Aggies’ win over ‘Bama. Manziel was 24-of-31 passing for 253 yards, two touchdowns, and he did not throw an interception. He also rushed for 92 more yards against arguably the nation’s best defense.
Along with Klein, Te’O, and Manziel, the other finalists may be Oregon Ducks speedy RB Kenjon Barner who has rushed for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns, and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who has hauled in 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 scores. This year’s winner will be announced on Saturday, December 8, live from the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.
November 8th, 2012
Currently ranked third in the latest BCS poll with a record of 8-0, Notre Dame is on the verge of its first unbeaten season since 1988, when QB Tony Rice led the Irish to a national championship. Should Brian Kelly’s squad finish the season unbeaten at 12-0, the Irish will surely be in the BCS title discussion. Also in that discussion will be Kansas State, Oregon, and top-ranked Alabama.
Assuming that, like the Irish, the other three teams in the mix win out to finish the season, Notre Dame will be left wishing that it was 2014. That, of course, is when the new four-team playoff format will begin. Sure, Notre Dame’s schedule is probably good enough to warrant playing the title game, but of the next four opponents only USC has a winning record. Oregon will play three ranked opponents in their last four games and then likely another in the Pac-12 championship. Again assuming the Ducks win out, playing through that schedule will likely move Oregon Ducks ahead of ND in the BCS rankings.
Kansas State, currently ranked second, faces two ranked opponents, Oklahoma State and Texas, in its last four weeks, and also faces dangerous TCU (5-3). At the present, the Wildcats and the Irish are tied in the computer rankings with a composite percentage of .970. With KSU at 12-0 and facing a tougher schedule in the last four weeks, Notre Dame’s score will only decrease leaving the Irish with no chance of overtaking Kansas State.
Almost every likely championship scenario does not include the Irish. If Alabama and Kansas State win their remaining games, there’s no doubt they will play in the BCS title game. It is also likely that Alabama and Oregon could meet should both teams win out and KSU falter. Another scenario has a one-loss SEC team, possibly Georgia or LSU, in the title game as well.
For the Irish to be playing on Jan. 7th all of the cards will have to fall into place. And, yes, there are some key games remaining on the schedule, especially the big LSU-’Bama showdown, which will have a huge impact on the BCS championship. First, Notre Dame must win handily over the teams they should-Pitt, Boston College, and Wake Forest. Then, they will need to put up some serious numbers against USC in the LA Coliseum. A victory is great, but a little cushion on the final score wouldn’t hurt.
With the 12-0 record in the bag, the Irish will then have to hope the teams at the top stumble along the last four weeks. A one-loss Alabama may still make it to Jan. 7th, if that loss is to LSU and not in the SEC championship. A one-loss Oregon might still have a shot if its loss is to USC in the regular season and comes back and destroys its opponent in the Pac-12 title game. A Kansas State loss will likely take them out of the picture since there is no Big 12 title game to count on for redemption. Plus, the Wildcats face Texas and Oklahoma State, each ranked in the lower end of the Top 25. Losing to either won’t be the same as losing to say, a No. 5 LSU. Regardless, Notre Dame’s path the BCS glory is murky at best.
October 28th, 2012
Halfway into the 2012 college football season, let’s take a look at some of the big surprises, some not-so-surprises, and biggest flops yet so far. After winning a national title and losing four players to the first round of the NFL Draft, Alabama was thought by many to have lost just a little too much to continue their dominance. At the midpoint of the season, the Tide is clearly the best team in the country with a bruising running game, solid QB play from A.J. McCarron, and the nation’s best defense.
Surprisingly, the Florida Gators are not far behind and are looking to make a run through the SEC East in order to take the Tide for the SEC title come December. Coach Will Muschamp, in just his second year, has brought the Gators back into the national title picture with a strong dose of RB Mike Gillislee and what may be the nation’s second-best defense. In a 44-11 blowout win over then No. 7-ranked South Carolina, it was the Florida defense and special teams that forced four turnovers. The Gators are already 5-0 in SEC play, with three of those wins coming on the road against ranked opponents.
Notre Dame (6-0) surely has surprised many sweeping Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue, then destroying Miami and beating a very good Stanford team in overtime. And the Irish did all of this with some pretty shaky quarterback play. The Irish still have two big tests remaining on their schedule (Oklahoma, USC), but could find themselves in the thick of the BCS championship picture at season’s end.
Maybe the two biggest surprises are Oregon State and Kansas State. Both are unbeaten, but the Beavers are coming off a disastrous 3-0 campaign a year ago. So far, they have beaten Wisconsin, hammered BYU and have destroyed three Pac-12 opponents. Kansas State, which has always been good under Bill Snyder, has just been phenomenal. Quarterback Collin Klein may be the nation’s best player and the Wildcats play great defense and just don’t make many mistakes. KSU still has some big games remaining, but they are another team that could find themselves in that BCS title picture should they win out.
On the other end of the college football stratosphere is Auburn. Just two years removed from a national championship, head coach Gene Chizik finds his Tigers sitting at 1-5 with one of the country’s worst offenses. Their QB play has been horrendous and the Tigers may have trouble winning another game this season.
Right beside Chizik is John L. Smith at Arkansas. The Hogs were ranked in the preseason Top Ten and after former coach Bobby Petrino’s bout with motorcycle mayhem cost him his job, Smith walked in ready to ride Petrino’s wave to an SEC title. Five weeks into the season, Arkansas stood at 1-4 losing to mid-major Louisiana-Monroe, then getting trounced at home by Alabama the following week. The Hogs are now 3-4 with consecutive wins over Auburn and Kentucky, neither of which is very good.
With the recent success of school’s like Michigan State and Wisconsin, and even Michigan’s 11-2 season a year ago, one would have thought that the Big Ten might rival the SEC for college football dominance. Not so. Michigan and Wisconsin each have two losses thus far and Michigan State sits at 4-4 going into the ninth week of the season. Northwestern has been a surprise, rattling off six straight wins to start the season, but from top to bottom, the conference is nowhere near the SEC or even the Big 12.
With another eight weeks to go, there is still plenty of football left. What remains to be seen is how the BCS title picture plays out and, who will move to the forefront in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
October 23rd, 2012
NCAA College Football Showdown Saturday did not disappoint as the weekend was full of quality match-ups, including a Top Ten battle in Gainesville. The No. 2-ranked Florida Gators proved they are worthy of their lofty BCS ranking clearly outplaying No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks in a 44-11 victory. The Florida defense and special teams forced four Gamecock turnovers, three of which Gator QB Jeff Driskell turned into touchdown passes. Driskell, who continues to improve, threw for four touchdowns. Both Florida and SC played outstanding defense. The Gators managed just 183 total yards, becoming the first FBS team in history to score over 40 points without gaining 200 yards of total offense.
Alabama Crimsontide, ranked No. 1 in the BCS, had little trouble with Tennessee in a 44-13 win. Tide QB A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and four touchdowns. The vaunted ‘Bama defense gave up just 79 yards rushing to the Vols and held Tyler Bray, the highly touted Vols’ QB, to 184 yards on 13-of-27 passing and no touchdowns.
Prior to Saturday’s lineup feast, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks traveled to Arizona State and dismantled any hopes of an upset in the first 15 minutes of play en route to a 43-21 win over the Sun Devils. ASU scored on its first play, a 28-yard pass from Taylor Kelly to Kevin Ozier, to jump out to a 7-0 lead just 49 seconds into the game. The Ducks countered with a Kenjon Barner 71-yard run and two Marcus Mariota touchdown passes to take a 22-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Barner would run for two more scores and Mariota, an 86-yard run, as the Ducks built a 43-7 halftime lead.
In somewhat of a surprise, head coach Bill Snyder’s No.4 Kansas State Wildcats went to Morgantown and made it look easy against Geno Smith and West Virginia as Wildcat QB Collin Klein accounted for seven touchdowns in a 55-14 thrashing of the No. 13 Mountaineers. Klein established himself as a legitimate Heisman favorite with a career-high 323 passing yards, completing 19-of-21 passes, three touchdowns, and added 41 yards on the ground and four scores.
No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish remained unbeaten fighting off a 14-7 halftime deficit to defeat Brigham Young, 17-14. The Irish rolled up 270 yards on the ground and George Atkinson III scored on a two-yard run early in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Running backs Theo Riddick (15 carries, 143 yards) and Cierre Wood (18-114) led the way for ND. Irish QB Tommy Rees, playing in place of the injured Everett Golson, completed six of his first seven passes, then only attempted three in the entire second half. Notre Dame’s defense limited BYU to just 66 yards on the ground.
After falling behind 12-0, No. 6 LSU scored 24 unanswered points and downed No. 18 Texas A&M, 24-19, in College Station. The Tigers started ugly but were able to gain some momentum going into the halftime break when Zach Mettenberger hit Kadron Boone with a 29-yard TD pass with 11 seconds to go to give LSU the lead for good at 14-12. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s dynamic freshman QB, was held to just 27 yards rushing on 17 carries and was intercepted three times. LSU RB Jeremy Hill ran for a career-high 127 yards on 18 carries and scored once.
The surprising Oregon State Beavers, ranked No. 8 in last week’s BCS poll, took care of Pac-12 opponent, Utah, 21-7. OSU forced four Utah turnovers and Beavers’ RB Storm Woods rushed for three touchdowns. Oregon State is 6-0 and off to the school’s best start in 105 years after being picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North this preseason.
Oklahoma got ready for its showdown next weekend with Notre Dame by handing Kansas a 52-7 setback. The No. 9 Sooners were hardly challenged by coach Charlie Weis’ Jayhawks. Sooner QB Landry Jones threw for three touchdowns and Penn State transfer Justin Brown returned a punt 90 yards for a TD. OU has now won three consecutive games by at least three touchdowns.
It was a record-breaking day at USC Trojans as QB Matt Barkley threw three touchdown passes in the game’s first six minutes as the Trojans, BCS No. 10, beat Colorado, 50-6. Barkley’s second TD pass, a 39-yarder to Robert Woods, broke former Trojan QB Matt Leinart’s Pac-12 career touchdown passing mark. Barkley finished the day 19-of-20 for 298 yards and six touchdowns, giving him 102 TD passes for his career.
October 17th, 2012
Seven weeks into the 2012 college football season, we finally have our first BCS rankings and, with that, it’s time to project the biggest bowl of them all…The Rose Bowl. This year’s Rose Bowl, to be played on January 1st as usual, will feature the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup. But, who will represent each conference? Sure, it may be too early to tell, but let’s take a look at the possibilities.
With Ohio State and Penn State out of the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl pictures this year due to NCAA penalties, the Leaders Division is all Wisconsin’s. Surprisingly, both the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions are unbeaten in league play so far. Take away a poor half and a kicking debacle in week two and PSU might be unbeaten on the season as are the Buckeyes.
The Wisconson Badgers have five league games remaining, the toughest of which may very well be against Ohio State and Penn State. Regardless, the bottom three in the Leaders Division will most likely have at least three losses. Even if Wisconsin ends up with three league losses, they will hold the edge on Purdue and Illinois, and should beat Indiana in week 10.
Play in the Legends Division is much tougher with the Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska Cornhuskers the favorites, although Iowa is currently 2-0 in league play. Don’t forget Northwestern, which ripped off six straight wins to start the season and Michigan State, last year’s Big Ten champ. The way it pans out in the Legends Division, though, is up to the Wolverines and the Cornhuskers. Iowa must play both and also must face Penn State and Northwestern. That doesn’t make it easy for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Michigan and Nebraska play each other in two weeks, but the ‘Huskers have Northwestern, a team they lost to last year, Michigan State, Penn State, and Iowa. Michigan will face pretty much the same road to a division title and cap off the season with the year-end rivalry game at Ohio State.
Look for superior defense and the play of Denard Robinson to propel the Wolverines to the Legends Division championship and look for them to face Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.
The interesting thing with the Pac-12 is the Oregon Ducks. Currently the BCS No. 3 team, Coach Chip Kelly’s squad is projected to be playing in the national championship game and if current No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida win out, they will play each other in the SEC championship game. The loser is likely out of the BCS title game which would pave the way for…the Oregon Ducks, should they too win out.
Oregon still has USC and Stanford remaining on the schedule along with a Thursday night trip to Tempe, AZ, to take on a rejuvenated Arizona State team that is currently 5-1. And don’t forget the Civil War. Oregon must play in-state rival Oregon State, ranked eighth in the BCS, in Corvallis on Thanksgiving weekend.
Should Oregon head to the BCS title game, that leaves USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinals, and Oregon State. Todd Graham’s Sun Devils just won’t cut it this year as they head down the stretch. Of the three remaining teams, the Trojans will have the easiest road as their test will come Nov. 3rd when they face the Ducks. Even if USC loses to Oregon, which will be looking for payback for last year’s 38-35 loss, a two-loss Trojan team wins the South Division and the right to play in the Pac-12 championship. With Oregon winning the North, it’s either the Ducks going to the BCS title game or to the Rose Bowl. If Oregon plays for all the marbles, then USC steps in and represents the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.
Rose Bowl Projection
Look for the teams with the easiest routes to get to Pasadena and for the Ducks to be playing for a national title… Wisconsin vs. USC
October 13th, 2012
With the upcoming release of the season’s first BCS standings, there will be talk of Alabama and what other SEC teams will be in the top ten. There will be talk of the improvement of the Pac-12 and the woes of the Big Ten. But what about the bottom feeders? What about the teams at the other end of the spectrum? Here’s a look at the ten worst college football teams in the country.
10. Colorado State (1-5)
After a season-opening win over in-state rival Colorado, the Colorado State Rams have dropped five straight, including a 22-7 loss to last year’s FCS champ, North Dakota State. CSU is horrible on defense giving up 30 points per game and maybe even worse on offense where they rank 117th in scoring, just 16 points per game. The running game is one of the three worst in the nation (96 yards a game) and the team’s leading rusher, Chris Nwoke, has just 162 yards.
9. Colorado (1-5)
Football in the state of Colorado is simply not good. Head coach Jon Embree is on his last legs for sure. After the aforementioned loss to rival Colorado State to start the year, the Colorado Buffaloes proceeded to lose to FCS Sacramento State, 30-28. A second-half rally provided the team’s only victory, a dramatic 35-34 win over Washington State, but this team is on the brink of disaster. Teams that give up 41 points a game rarely win and Colorado still must play the USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks, and Stanford Cardinals, all ranked teams.
8. Kansas (1-4)
If Dorothy clicked her heels, she would awake to find the latest in futility from the Kansas football program. New head coach Charlie Weis was supposed to at least revive a sluggish offense. The Kansas Jayhawks are 111th in scoring offense putting up just 20 points a game. KU’s only win came at the hands of FCS South Dakota State in the season opener. Granted the Jayhawks have lost to two ranked teams, TCU and Kansas State, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia remain.
7. Akron (1-5)
Welcome back to college football, Terry Bowden. Surely, he never thought it would be this bad. The lone win was a 66-6 pounding of FCS Morgan State. The Akron Zips are already 0-2 in the MAC and the league schedule doesn’t get much easier. Akron faces Ohio and Northern Illinois, who appeared in last year’s league championship game, and then must take on a newly rejuvenated Kent State and Toledo, both of whom are currently unbeaten in league play. Akron is eighth in the nation in passing offense, but average just 123 yards a game on the ground.
6. Florida International (1-5)
A year ago, the Panthers played in their second consecutive bowl game. Head coach Mario Cristobal had this program headed in the right direction. But FIU has had serious trouble stopping anyone, giving up 38 points a game, and it’s hard to win games when you give up 38. The Panthers’ lone victory was a 41-38 overtime win over Akron. The fewest points allowed by FIU…28 in a 28-21 loss to a ranked Louisville squad.
5. Auburn (1-4)
What a difference a stud QB and a couple years make. The 2010 national champions are now one of the worst football teams in America. No more Gus Malzahn and high-octane offense. The Auburn Tigers are now an anemic, pro-style offense that puts up a whopping 15 points a game. They rank near the bottom in every major offensive statistical category. And, they play in the SEC. There are some bright spots, though. The Tigers still have New Mexico State (stay tuned) and Alabama A&M remaining on the schedule.
4. New Mexico State (1-5)
Hard to believe that an early November date with Auburn might be a battle between the Aggies and the Tigers. New Mexico State, a program with a history of losing records, has lost five straight since an opening-weekend win over Sacramento State. The Aggies can’t run the ball (86 yards a game) and can’t stop anybody (33 points a game), a bad combination when trying to win football games.
3. Eastern Michigan (0-5)
A year ago Ron English’s Eagles were looking to get into a bowl game with six wins. This year, the wins are hard to find and EMU will be lucky if it gets any. The Eagles can’t run (103rd in rush offense), can’t throw (118th in pass offense), can’t score (119th in scoring offense), and find it difficult to stop anyone from scoring (110th in scoring defense, 37 points per game). It’s a recipe for disaster as the Eagles still have to play three of the MAC’s best—Toledo, Ohio, and Northern Illinois.
2. Southern Mississippi (0-5)
After coach Larry Fedora’s exit last year after a 12-win, Conference USA championship season, Southern Miss was thought to be in good hands with Ellis Johnson. Five games into the 2012 season and the Eagles have yet to get a win. They have played some good football teams—Nebraska, Louisville, Boise State—but gone is the high-powered offense of a year ago. Southern Miss averages just 16 points a game and the passing game, a strength last year, is one of the worst in the nation averaging just 135 yards a game.
1. Tulane (0-5) & UMass (0-6)
It’s dual futility at the top. In its first year as an FBS program, Charley Molnar’s UMass team just doesn’t have it figured out yet. The Minutemen have had a hard time putting the ball into the end zone. UMass is 121st in the nation in scoring offense averaging just 13.8 points per game. The only thing worse than the UMass offense? Tulane’s. The Green Wave are dead last, 124th out of 124 FBS programs, in scoring. Tulane has only been shut out once, but has averaged just nine points per game. And defensively, both teams yield over 40 points per game. Tulane now has 15 straight losses. UMass is headed in that direction.
October 13th, 2012
To remain in the national title hunt, the University of Southern California football squad cannot afford another slip up.
Yet to exhibit the greatness predicted by college football experts before the season, inconsistency plagued the Trojans through the first five games. USC rolled over Hawaii and California, struggled mightily at various points against Syracuse and Utah, and lost to Stanford. The Orange, Utes, and Cardinal all lack the raw talent of USC, but they managed to keep each contest unexpectedly close.
Possibly the only unit outperforming expectations, USC’s defensive line exhibited dominance over the first several games. Junior defensive end Morgan Breslin ranks among the top players nationally in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (10.5) on a defense that yields fewer than three yards per carry. As the Trojans trudge through the high-scoring PAC 12 Conference, its opposition will likely try to beat them by way of air.
Cornerback has been a major point of concern for coach Lane Kiffin. The starters struggled so much the first few weeks, speculation surfaced that Kiffin might consider shifting wide receiver Marqise Lee to the position. Though he recently denied the possibility of moving Lee over to defense, safety Josh Shaw practiced at corner this week, confirming the staff’s lack of confidence in the secondary.
But it does appear the Trojans are trending upward in recent weeks.
In a 27-9 victory over in-state foe Cal on Sep. 22, USC was able to sack Bears’ quarterback Zach Maynard seven times. And for the first time since 2008, two running backs surpassed the 100-yard mark for the Trojans—Silas Redd racked up 158, while Curtis McNeal totaled 115.
Against Utah last week, USC dug itself out of an early hole to earn a valuable conference road win. QB Matt Barkley posted perhaps his best game of the season, completing 23 of 30 passes and three touchdowns. Equally impressive, the receiving corps displayed deep threat potential all game long as the Trojans prevailed, 38-28.
As USC plows deeper into the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
With a trip to Seattle to play Washington on the horizon, as well as #2 Oregon Ducks and #7 Notre Dame coming to town in November, the Trojans have plenty of boulders in their path. Also laying in the weeds is crosstown rival UCLA, a squad foaming at the mouth to avenge last year’s 50-0 embarrassment. With one loss, a national title game appearance doesn’t appear as likely as it did prior to the season, but if the Trojans do find themselves in Miami they will most certainly have earned it.
October 6th, 2012
Matt Barkley & USC
Wasn’t the triumphant return of the stud QB, those receivers, and tons of starters supposed to have USC Trojans challenge the SEC’s dominance of the BCS national championship trophy? Five weeks into the season, the Trojans aren’t even in the Top Ten anymore and have been written off as a true contender in the BCS picture. Barkley has been less than impressive and has fallen off the Heisman radar as a result.
Bobby Petrino’s little escapade on his motorcycle over the summer sparked a disaster in Hog Country. After Petrino’s firing and the hiring of John L. Smith, it appeared that Arkansas, with QB Tyler Smith and a host of returning players, wouldn’t miss a beat. They missed terribly. After a season-opening win over FCS Jacksonville State, the Hogs have lost four straight and sit at 1-4.
And speaking of ULM, is this a program on the rise? An upset of Arkansas, they took Auburn to overtime before falling, and were right in it with Baylor. The WarHawks average 42 points per game and have a highly underrated QB in Kolton Browning. ULM begins play in the Sun Belt this weekend. Look for them to be in the hunt for a conference title.
MAC vs. Big Ten
The Big Ten used to schedule MAC teams as warm ups for the coming league schedule or even homecoming games. No more. Miami (OH) beats Penn State. Northern Illinois over Kansas. Central Michigan shocks Iowa. Ball State wins at Indiana. The MAC is no longer the “little brother” to the Big Ten and the Big Ten, well, is just not as strong as it used to be.
After a dismal 3-9 campaign last year, Mike Riley has his troops ranked in the Top 20 with three wins over ranked teams already (Wisconsin, Arizona, UCLA). The Beavers QB Sean Mannion has matured and delivered for the Beavers who still have a long road ahead with the Pac-12 schedule and the year-ending Civil War with #2 Oregon. Doubtful anyone thought OSU would be unbeaten and ranked heading into October.
A 4-0 start, a top ten ranking…Irish fans have dreamed for years and now head coach Brian Kelly has made it come true. The Notre Dame defense is something special and is the big reason the Irish are unbeaten. If QB Everett Golson can get it figured out on offense, Notre Dame can be a true BCS contender. A strong running game and powerful defense are part of the necessary ingredients in championship football teams. Golson, or even former starter Tommy Rees, needs to add the QB to the mix.
Texas Tech Defense
Who leads the nation in total defense? Alabama? LSU? No…it’s the Red Raiders of pass-happy Texas Tech. There hasn’t been defense like this in Lubbock since the days of Spike Dykes. Tommy Tuberville’s unit gives up just 167.5 yards per game (just 85.5 on the ground!) Hey, some of it is the schedule they have played but they are better than year’s past. And they will need to be. Beginning Saturday, the Red Raiders face five nationally ranked opponents in a row.
October 1st, 2012
Two schools located in the same city, Los Angeles, separated by just twelve miles makes
for one interesting rivalry. The likelihood that alumni and students from the schools
will interact with each other on a daily basis is very high. Ohio State-Michigan and
Army-Navy are two other huge college football rivalries that come to mind, but neither
features the kind of proximity that is seen by the Trojans and the Bruins.
The schools have competed against one another in a variety of sports since the early
1900s. USC, long recognized as a “football school” and UCLA, the “basketball school,”
both have storied traditions in other non-revenue sports as well, such as track & field,
volleyball, and water polo. UCLA actually holds the NCAA record for most team national
championships with 107 and most overall national titles with 128, more than any other
school in the nation. But, it’s on the football field where the real rivalry begins.
Since the formation of the old Pacific Coast Conference, which is now the Pac-12, USC
and UCLA have shared or won 54 conference football championships. The rivalry
game, normally played the last week of the regular season, has had conference title
implications as well as, on some occasions, national title implications, and has served to
determine the conference’s Rose Bowl berth on several occasions.
One of the most memorable was the “Game of the Century” played in 1967 pitting #1
UCLA led by QB Gary Beban against the second-ranked Trojans and a phenomenal
young running back named O.J. Simpson. USC won 21-20, beat Indiana in the Rose
Bowl, and claimed the national championship. Beban did win the Heisman Trophy that
year. Simpson won it the next.
Recently, though, the game has lost some of its luster. While USC has flourished,
winning national championships in 2003 and 2004 and losing in the title game in 2005,
UCLA has struggled. The hiring of “golden boy” former QB Rick Neuheisel in 2008
was to signal the return to prominence. It was not to be as the former Rose Bowl MVP
produced only one winning season and a 21-30 overall record.
USC has dominated the rivalry of late. The Bruins’ last victory in the series was in 2006.
With another BCS title game berth on the line, UCLA pulled one of the great upsets in
college football with a 13-9 victory denying the Trojans the chance to play for another
national championship. USC still won the Pac-10 and went on to the Rose Bowl that
Since the ‘06 win, the Bruins have not fared well in the “Victory Bell” match-up, losing
miserably last year, 50-0. USC has won 12 of the last 13, holds a 46-28-7 advantage in
the series, and in the last five meetings has outscored UCLA, 158-35. USC has owned the
Victory Bell for the better part of the past two decades. The bell, originally from an old
Southern Pacific railroad locomotive, has traditionally been awarded to the winner of
the USC-UCLA game every year since 1942.
If there is a year to mark a turning point in the rivalry, it may very well be 2012. With
new coach Jim Mora, Jr., the Bruins are off to one of their best starts in recent history.
UCLA is 4-1 with a big win over then 16th-ranked Nebraska. Their only loss was a 27-20
setback to 18th-ranked Oregon State.
The Bruin offense has become more consistent and it starts with the play of freshman
QB Brett Hundley. Hundley is completing 66 percent of his passes (121-for-183),
has 1,480 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and has a passer rating of 150.6. And, led
by Jonathan Franklin, UCLA has one of the top 15 rushing offenses in the country.
Franklin, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, has 693 yards rushing including two 200-yard
games already this season.
If the Bruins continue to improve and stay healthy, it’s possible that this year’s Nov.
17th match-up with the USC Trojans could be for the Pac-12 South Division championship.
USC, however, has it a little tougher meeting two ranked opponents, Washington and #2
Oregon Ducks, prior to the cross-town rivalry.
The Trojans are led by senior QB Matt Barkley, who stunned the football world last year
declaring he would return for his senior year at USC. With Barkley, the country’s best
receiving tandem in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, and the addition of Penn State
transfer Silas Redd, the Trojan offense is its strength. The vulnerability lies within the
Trojan defense as Stanford proved as they handed USC its only loss of the season, 21-14.
While it may not be a “game of the century” this year, the Victory Bell tilt will be one to
watch as the regular season winds down. The UCLA Bruins will be looking for a signature win
as they enter the Mora era and will desperately want to end the Trojans’ dominance in
the rivalry. USC, on the other hand, may need the victory as it fights for to keep a BCS
bowl bid alive. The 2012 edition should be a good one, a return to the gridiron battles of
the 1960s and ‘70s.
You can purchase USC Vs Ucla tickets now