Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What Kind of Rival Is UCLA?

USC has two big football rivals: Notre Dame and UCLA. However, the two rivalries are different. The Notre Dame rivalry is characterized by mutual respect. Both USC and Notre Dame have suffered more losses to each other than any other school. The game against Notre Dame almost always takes place in the national spotlight with victory often serving as a launching pad for national championships and Heisman trophies. The rivalry with UCLA, on the other hand, is characterized by mutual dislike (many would say hate, and that would not necessarily be inaccurate). A win over UCLA is nice simply because it keeps the folks across town out of our faces for another year and puts the Bruins in their proper place. I know, I know . . . UCLA fans will point to this sentiment as an example of typical Trojan arrogance; but it’s true.

UCLA players and fans seem to view the cross-town rivalry somewhat differently. College Football Resource gave his take on each side’s perspective a couple weeks ago:

Two rivalries stand out to me as almost comical. Those are the ill feelings between Auburn and Alabama and USC and UCLA.

Most rivalries have both schools on some kind of level ground. That is, Michigan fans can make a lot of claims that they're the best, but so can Ohio State fans. But with these two specific rivalries, there's a certain big brother/little brother feel to them that cracks me up. Not surprisingly, USC and Alabama play the big brother roles. They've had a lot more success over the years, have owned the rivalries and their fans approach the rivalry a little different than those on the other side.

For simple proof, I present to you two blogs, one by a USC fan and the other by UCLA fans. The
USC fan is his usual cool cucumber, relaxed about his place in the world and oblivious to the presence of his rival. The UCLA fan, however, has worked himself into some kind of lather, absolutely frothing three whole weeks before the game against his big brother. This stuff is hilarious . . . . It's like to one side they're just happy with the obligatory win just to shut the other guys up, and on the other side their whole existence is built into the outcome.

USC’s take on the two rivalries is encapsulated by Matt Leinart and fullback Brandon Hancock in today’s Los Angeles Daily News:

Leinart: “We respect Notre Dame. It's a classy rivalry.”

Hancock: “We respect Notre Dame and at the end of the day it's a pretty healthy rivalry. But all bets are off with these pansies. We don't want to just beat them. We want to hurt them. We're not going to call the dogs off in the third or fourth quarter. We want to send a message.”

Music to my ears.

P.S. USC has played Notre Dame 77 times and holds a record of 30-42-5 against the Fighting Irish. USC is 40-27-7 against UCLA.