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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UCLA vs. USC will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday on ABC

With the Pac-12 South at stake, UCLA will host USC in a primetime slot this coming Saturday.

The rivalry game will kick off at the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., with a national broadcast on ABC. Arizona State had held the inside track to the Pac-12 title game for the last month, but its upset loss to Oregon State last night shifts to spotlight to Pasadena — where the Bruins and the Trojans will play a de facto division elimination game.

With two weeks left, five teams still remain mathematically alive to win the Pac-12 South. But despite the hodgepodge of potential tiebreaker scenarios, UCLA holds the clearest path: win out against USC and Stanford, and the Bruins will earn a second shot at Oregon at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5.

Beat the Ducks, and a playoff berth that seemed laughable a month ago will be within UCLA’s grasp.

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Jim Mora defends UCLA football against ‘gloom and doom’

UCLA slipped past Colorado on Saturday with a 40-37 road win in double overtime, but it was a victory that saw the Bruins make mistake after mistake against a lesser opponent.

A day later, Jim Mora wanted to remind everyone that this program looked far worse not too long ago.

“Let’s all remember that the last game UCLA played before this whole thing started was a 50-0 ass-kicking,” he said Sunday.

The third-year head coach was referring, of course, to the Bruins’ 50-0 loss to USC in 2011 — one that came just days after former head coach Rick Neuheisel said UCLA had “closed the gap” with their crosstown rivals.

Technically, the Bruins played two more games before Mora took over: a 49-31 loss to then-No. 8 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, and a 20-14 loss to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

But that 50-0 shellacking against the Trojans was the low point that prompted Neuheisel’s firing just days later. Two weeks after that, UCLA hired Mora — who, despite his team’s recent struggles, orchestrated a quick turnaround that few expected.

“We’re only two and a half years into our tenure here, and we’ve won 75 percent of our regular season games with a completely overhauled roster,” Mora said. “I don’t know if you guys know that, but we’re 24-8 in regular season games here since we’ve been here, with a completely overhauled roster.” Continue reading

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UCLA ranked below USC in AP poll for the first time since 2012

For the first time in almost two years, UCLA is ranked below USC.

The Bruins fell a spot to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll following Saturday’s 42-35 win over Memphis — their second straight closer-than-expected victory over a seemingly inferior opponent. UCLA had started the season at No. 7, and was a trendy pick to make the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

Meanwhile, USC rose to No. 9 in Sunday’s poll after upsetting Stanford, 13-10, on the road. This is the first time the Trojans have been ranked above UCLA in the AP poll since Oct. 28, 2012, when they were seven spots ahead at No. 18.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Oregon rose a spot to No. 2 — earning 16 first-place votes after a 46-27 blowout of then-No. 7 Michigan State. The Cardinal and Arizona State are ranked 15th and 16th, respectively.

Full Associated Press poll below: Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: USC’s Josh Shaw (doesn’t) save nephew from drowning

» USC cornerback Josh Shaw sprained his ankles saving his nephew from drowning during a family social on Saturday. Remarkably, Shaw leaped off second-story balcony when he saw the 7-year-old struggling, landing on the concrete before crawling into the pool.

UPDATE: Serious doubts about Shaw’s story have surfaced, and USC is investigating further.

» Anu Solomon officially became Arizona’s starting quarterback, marking the first time since freshmen became eligible in 1972 that the Wildcats will open the season with one behind center.

» A closer look at the running ability of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, whom Jim Mora called “tough as nails.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 Media Days roundup: Bruins and Trojans and Huskies; oh my!

Photo gallery from Day 2 of Pac-12 Media Days (Andy Holzman/Daily News)

The Pac-12 stretched its annual media event across two days for the first time, In case you missed any of it, here’s a roundup of all the coverage that appeared in Los Angeles News Group newspapers.

Day 1
– Columnist Jill Painter, on the “glitz and glamour” of the Pac-12′s coaches and athletes.
– The Pac-12 returns 10 of its starting quarterbacks … leaving defensive backs somewhat forgotten.
– It’s a high-scoring conference, but its member teams find the end zone in different ways.
Steve Sarkisian does not care that his USC team received just one division vote to UCLA’s 37.

Day 2
– He isn’t the biggest UCLA name, but linebacker Eric Kendricks is ready to play.
– How many good quarterbacks does the Pac-12 have? Not one, not two, not three
– Washington suspended quarterback Cyler Miles, the Pac-12 Networks are going international, and other conference notes.

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Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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