December 2, 2006
UCLA to play spoiler
Its déjà vu all over again for the Bruins as once again they find themselves in the role of the spoiler. Once again the Bruins are the favorite son of fans from schools that have aspirations dancing in their heads of Natty games in Arizona if only UCLA (6-5 Pac 10 4-4) can knock off the dreaded Trojans of USC (10-1 Pac 10 7-1).
That could be a tall order for any team since the Trojans seem to be peaking at exactly the right time.
Once again Pete Carroll marched through the month of November like the Germans ransacked France and once again USC went through the month undefeated.
USC is going through one of college football's greatest runs of all time. The Trojans have won 55 of its last 58 games in an era of limited scholarships that tried to create parity.
Maybe the most amazing stat is the three losses during that time span were by a total of eight points.
Carroll is the winningest active coach and has led the Trojans to four BCS Bowl games and two national championships. With a win against the Bruins the Trojans could end up in the big Natty dance again.
Many thought that this would be the year that Troy would lay in ruin and burn with departure of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and others that went off to make a living on Sunday.
Even though the offense lost most of their fire power from a year ago they still are in the national Top 25 in passing, total yards and scoring led by first-year starting quarterback John David Booty.
Booty has stepped in just about where Lienart left off and leads the Pac 10 in passing efficiency.
It does help out a new quarterback when you have the likes of steady Steve Smith and 2005 Biletnikoff Award finalist, Dwayne Jarrett to throw to.
USC's running attack is also very and is handled by a committee of Chauncey Washington, C.J. Gable and Emanuel Moody.
Moody, a true freshman, was off to a good start before he came down with an injury. Washington has been solid this season and Gable is coming off his first career 100 yard game against Notre Dame so the Trojan ground attack is business as usual.
If the offense isn't daunting enough for you the defense is also hitting stride and playing like a Pete Carroll defense the frightening thing about his defense only one is a senior.
USC has already clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl after winning their fifth consecutive Pac 10 title two weeks ago and playing one the nation's toughest schedules beating the SEC western champs Arkansas and the Big 12 North Champions Nebraska and in the Bruins are facing their tenth bowl eligible team.
So the question persists can the Bruins beat the No. 2 ranked Trojans?
Stranger things have happened in this rivalry so the answer is yes, but it will help if there is a little divine intervention.
UCLA's offense has been MIA for much of the season and Bruin fans have been waiting all season long for glimpse of the excitement that the Bruin offense brought to the table in 2005.
Timing couldn't be more perfect for UCLA if this is the Saturday that offense decides to click. If the offense does indeed play well that will keep some pressure off a Bruin defense that has been carrying more than their weight all year long.
Patrick Cowan was given the starting quarterback nod this week over a healing Ben Olson in a somewhat controversial move, but word out of the USC camp was they weren't even preparing for Olson.
The Trojan thinking the story goes was that it wouldn't make sense to start a guy who hasn't taken a snap in a game since October 7th in a game with this magnitude.
Whether the Trojan rumor about Cowan is true or false, if he doesn't the job done early, he could get the hook and Olson could end up playing.
This rivalry has that kind of magic where guys who weren't expected to step up, end up as the hero. Does John Barnes ring a bell or for you older fans, Norman Dow?
Both are legendary Bruins for their heroics in the USC and the Bruins will need for someone to step out and play the game of their lives, one for the ages.
For the Bruins to win this game they need to keep it close until the fourth quarter and if they do then it is anyone's game.
The Bruin defense has to play their best game of the season for all four quarters and if need be leave all on the field.
UCLA's pass rush has to harass Booty all day and put him on his booty all afternoon long. If the Bruin defense gets into Booty's head and gets his rhythm off that could be an equalizer.
The Bruins face a tough task today, but a victory can be won, David was able to slay the giant with a lot faith and one stone. They must make their breaks and take advantage of them and never relent.
UCLA can not shoot themselves in the foot offensively. They have to focus and not make drive killing penalties. Take some shots downfield and be more creative offensively.
UCLA's special teams have to be special and can't give any momentum swinging plays and perhaps create a few.
UCLA must punch the Trojans squarely on the jaw and let them know they are in a football game from the opening kickoff to the last tick of the clock.
UCLA has some things they have to do to be successful and little magic will help out, too.
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