What’s at stake for UCLA in the USC rivalry game?

I was on SportsCenter briefly this week to talk about what this Saturday’s rivalry game will mean for UCLA.

Some more coverage from LANG this week:
» How does rivalry week hype compare to the national expectations UCLA faced just a few months ago?
» Could penalties loom again when UCLA takes the field against a team that averages even more flags per game?
» After being reinstated, what is USC defensive back Josh Shaw’s status this weekend?

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UCLA is No. 9 in latest College Football Playoff rankings

Jim Mora acknowledged this morning that if someone drew a graph of UCLA’s season trajectory, “it would be rather jagged.”

At least the Bruins are trending up. In the latest College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday evening, UCLA climbed two more spots to No. 9 — putting the team in position for one of the “New Year’s Six” bowls if it can win out against USC and Stanford to finish the regular season.

ESPN’s latest postseason projections have the Bruins in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State, a scenario that assumes two straight wins followed by a close loss to No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.

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Photos: LAX lights up entrance pylons for UCLA-USC rivalry

Rivalry week has reached an international portal. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

Passengers at one of the busiest airports in the world will be treated to displays of UCLA and USC colors. This week, LAX will alternate its entrance pylon lights between blue, red and gold for the two teams. Click through above for more photos.

Here’s roundup of our early UCLA-USC coverage this week:
» As buzz builds around Los Angeles, the Bruins are trying their best not to acknowledge the rivalry hype.
» Mark Whicker’s column on how UCLA woke up to the news of Oregon State’s upset win over Arizona State.
» USC’s Leonard Williams, on UCLA: “I definitely want to get back at them. We’re definitely going to have a chip on our shoulder.”
» The UCLA-USC rivalry spreads wide throughout the Southland.

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First look: No. 24 USC Trojans

No. 11 UCLA Bruins (8-2, 5-2) vs. No. 24 USC Trojans (7-3, 6-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 22, 5 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: ABC (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: Will Steve Sarkisian again top seven regular-season wins as a head coach?

For several years at Washington, the knock on Sark was that he could never take a team over that hump. Sure, he’d knock off a few ranked teams here and there, but after a 2009 debut that featured upsets of No. 3 USC and No. 19 Cal, his Huskies finished 7-6 for three straight years. When he finally broke through with an 8-4 record last season, he soon took the Trojans’ top job.

Now back at the school where he spent the bulk of his career as an assistant, the 40-year-old is pushing up against that same hurdle. USC will pull more talent than Sarkisian could ever get at UW, but in his first season, the Trojans seem to have a habit of playing down to opponents. Their losses to Arizona State and Utah required them giving up a Hail Mary and a touchdown with eight seconds left. More recently, they took a 31-2 halftime lead against Cal, only to see the Bears score four of the game’s next five touchdowns. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley on what USC rivalry means to his UCLA legacy

If UCLA beats USC on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, Brett Hundley would leave the program with three straight rivalry wins under his belt. That’s something that former Bruin quarterbacks Gary Beban (Heisman winner) and Troy Aikman (first overall NFL draft pick) can’t even say.

“It would mean a lot to look back and say I’ve been undefeated versus Southern Cal,” Hundley said. “But at the same time, right now … the focus is on us and getting the victory.”

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JUCO offensive tackle Zach Bateman commits to UCLA

For the first half of this season, UCLA’s offensive line was hurting most on the edges.

The return of Conor McDermott at left tackle has stabilized the unit, but it was an obvious area of need heading into the next recruiting cycle. And on Saturday night, the Bruins added one more future piece in three-star JUCO recruit Zach Bateman.

The 6-foot-7, 320-pound tackle starred for Orange Coast College after becoming an All-Orange Coast League selection at Costa Mesa’s Estancia High. His commitment was first reported by Scout.com, and he should graduate in time to enroll early.

Bateman’s arrival would give UCLA a chance to test out more offensive line combinations during spring camp. The Bruins would return McDermott and starting right tackle Caleb Benenoch, as well as have a fully healthy Simon Goines — a former 20-game starter at tackle. Current redshirt freshman Poasi Moala would be a factor as well.

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