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It’s simple: the winner of this Saturday’s 82nd meeting between crosstown rivals No. 21 USC and No. 17 UCLA in the Rose Bowl will represent the Pac-12 South Division in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

USC has lost just once in the last 13 matchups against UCLA and has captured the past 5 meetings. The Trojans are aiming for an 11th consecutive season with 8 or more wins.

UCLA enters the game with a higher ranking than USC for the first time since 2001 and more wins since 2000. Besides the Pac-12 title game berth and year-long city bragging rights, also at stake are possession of the Victory Bell and points in the Crosstown Gauntlet standings.

The Rose Bowl has been USC’s home away from home (this will be Troy’s 52nd contest in the Pasadena stadium). Both teams will don their home jerseys. The McDonald brothers (USC’s T.J. McDonald and UCLA’s Tevin McDonald) will start at free safety. Both teams also feature players whose fathers and brothers once wore the opponent’s colors, as well as coaches who coached at the “other” school. UCLA head coach Jim Mora’s parents even attended USC.

The Trojans are coming off a bounce-back win over Arizona State where the offense was productive and the defense reverted to its stingy form from earlier in 2012. Soph WR Marqise Lee, the leading Biletnikoff Award candidate who is No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards, receptions and receiving yards, has entered the Heisman talk after another jaw-dropping outing (watch for him on defense, too). Opposite Lee is equally-dangerous WR Robert Woods, USC’s career receptions leader.

QB Matt Barkley now owns Pac-12 career records for passing yardage, completions, pass TDs and total offense. TBs Silas Redd (the Penn State transfer) and Curtis McNeal headline Troy’s rushing attack, with Rimington Award nominee and Academic All-District C Khaled Holmes opening the holes.

USC’s defense, fourth in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, features All-American S T.J. McDonald (the team’s top tackler), CB Nickell Robey, LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard and sack specialist DE Morgan Breslin.

UCLA has won its past 4 outings, including at Washington State last Saturday, to give the Bruins their most wins (8) since 2005. UCLA’s offense is among the nation’s best, ranking in the Top 25 in total offense, passing efficiency, scoring offense and rushing offense. Directing the attack is impressive redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley, among the national leaders in passing efficiency and total offense.

TB Johnathan Franklin, the school’s career rushing leader and owner of 17 100-yard rushing games, already has run for 1,270 yards in 2012 (he is sixth nationally in rushing). Hundley’s top targets include WRs Shaq Evans and multipurpose Steven Manfro and 6-7 TE Joseph Fauria.

The Bruins’ pressure defense, in the national Top 10 in sacks and tackles for loss, features OLB Anthony Barr (No. 6 nationally in both categories) along with ILB Eric Kendricks, FS Tevin McDonald and OLB Damien Holmes.

The game, USC’s second consecutive noon kickoff, will air live nationally on FOX.

A documentary on the USC-UCLA football rivalry (“A City Divided”) is being released and will aid in raising funds for cancer research. The men’s water polo teams from USC and UCLA will meet at Troy on Saturday after the football game.

USC Media Release (pdf)

 
 

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