Nov 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley (17) dives into the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA-USC: The Classic Battles Are Back

Almost every college football fan loves when rivalry games are evenly matched.

Not only is there just the natural intrigue of it being a rivalry, but if that game is between two talented and relatively even teams, the game becomes even better.

Look at the classic Ohio State-Michigan matchup. Nearly every year, OSU and Michigan put on a thriller and it is always a game on college football fans’ radar, no matter what team they support.

The same goes for Alabama-Auburn. The Iron Bowl has been one of the most anticipated games of the season, especially in recent years with Cam Newton and now Nick Marshall improving the Auburn program. Just last season, the in-state battle produced one of the greatest finishes in college football history when the Tigers’ Chris Davis pulled off what is now immortalized simply as the “Kick Six” with his final-play miracle to upset Alabama.

UCLA-USC is another rivalry that can be considered as great as the two mentioned above. The Trojans and the Bruins were two of the elite programs in college football throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, with each contending for then-Pac-10 titles and national championships seemingly year in and year out.

In the 2000’s, however, it was a different story. The Trojans dominated the conference and the nation with legendary defenses and almost relentless offensive attacks, while the Bruins played poorly under coach Karl Dorrell. Aside from an instant classic when UCLA upset then #2 USC in 2006, the burgundy and gold dominated this rivalry.

While UCLA did make some improvement under new coach Rick Neuheisal, inconsistency, and in some cases mediocrity, were still yearly occurrences.

Since that time though, it has been a 180 for both programs.

UCLA is currently one of the top teams in the Pac-12 and a national title contender, and USC is entering their first season free from NCAA sanctions due to multiple infractions committed when Pete Carroll was the head coach of the Trojans. The sanctions severely affected USC’s depth, leading to subpar seasons under Lane Kiffin. Kiffin was fired after a short and disappointing tenure as USC’s coach. Assistant Ed Orgeron was given interim head coaching duties and changed the culture of the program and turned the Trojans season around. Despite this success, USC chose to hire former USC offensive coordinator and Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian to lead the team.

USC is not an elite team, although they project to be a solid squad in the Pac-12 in 2014. Combine this with the Bruins contending for both the Pac-12 and national championships, and the Battle for the Victory Bell is easily one of the best games, not only on the West Coast, but on a national level.

Although the Bruins definitely have an edge over the Trojans, having heated and interesting rivalries is good for the sport as a whole, and the UCLA-USC game being a good matchup is good for the city.

Ask yourself this question: Is a game with a plethora of storylines surrounding it and the result in all likelihood having national implications better than 50-0 and 66-19 drubbings?

I am pretty sure you would answer “yes.”

As for this year, in addition to UCLA’s aforementioned title hopes, the Bruins have a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Brett Hundley, as USC adjusts to a new coach in Sarkisian. The 2014 edition of this game could very well have championship implications for the Bruins as well.

That, my friends, is definitely a boon for the sport and for the city.

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