— Defensive end Datone Jones’ first offer came from USC, but he waited out for UCLA. He had always been more of a basketball fan growing up in Compton, and didn’t notice the intensity of the football rivalry until later in high school.
“When it really hit for me was when Reggie Bush was there,” Jones said. “I was around 10th or 11th grade. That’s when I was like ‘OK, cool.’ That’s when I really started noticing how big it was. I started watching from then on there and I was like, ‘I wanna be a Trojan.’ Then I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t wanna be a Trojan, I wanna be a Bruin. I wanna help their program win championships. I don’t wanna be a bandwagoner.'”
— Johnathan Franklin wasn’t recruited by USC, and was even thought by most to be a better fit at safety than, y’know, eventual UCLA career rushing leader. As a recruit, he was present at UCLA’s 2006 win, one that convinced him the Bruins were headed “to the top.”
“It means everything,” Franklin said. “It’s my last shot at it. I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. It’s a big rivalry. One of the biggest in college football.”
— Tevin McDonald will play his brother T.J. in the rivalry game for the last time, but he said they have remained cordial this week. The two spoke on Monday to before giving each other space to work on their own preparation. “We just don’t have time,” he said. T.J. apparently hasn’t talked too much trash since last year’s loss.
— Jim Mora has tried to downplay the rivalry as best he could, saying that the week of prep has been identical to the past 10 — even “down to the second.” Still, he acknowledged how unfamiliar the experience has been.
“It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever seen whether it be pro sports or college sports,” he said. “(Thinking back to the pros), I don’t know that there was ever one of the significance of what we have vs. USC. I thought back to when I was with the University of Washington, our main rivals were Washington State and Oregon, but they were hundreds of miles away. It’s so unique to have such a division in a city like we have here. It’s pretty special.”