What to watch: No. 9/11 UCLA vs. No. 19/24 USC

It’s finally here. UCLA will kick off against USC at 5 p.m., in a game that could change the tone of the entire season. Here’s what to watch heading into Jim Mora’s attempt at a third straight rivalry win.

UCLA offense vs. USC defense: Once again, UCLA’s fate will depend on how Brett Hundley performs. Headed to the NFL draft after this season, the redshirt junior has a chance to be the first Bruin quarterback to go 3-0 against the Trojans since Cade McNown did. (McNown remains the only one to go a perfect 4-0.)

Hundley’s passing totals in two games against USC won’t blow anyone away: 40 of 57, 442 yards, one touchdown. It’s his legs that have consistently cut through the Trojan defense. Seven times in his career, Hundley has rushed for two touchdowns in a single game. He has just one such performance this season — two weeks ago at Washington — but admitted earlier in the year that he had allowed NFL draft expectations to discourage him from running.

That he’s shed that burden is bad news for USC. Hundley has rushed for two touchdowns each time he’s faced the Trojans, and totaled 80 yards on the ground on 13 carries last season. He only had 18 yards against UW, but had averaged 106 through the four outings prior. Continue reading

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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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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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