It’s finally happening.
After two years and multiple injuries, USC quarterback Sam Darnold and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will finally meet in the crosstown rivalry. Not impressed? Well, it’s the only compelling aspect of Saturday’s USC-UCLA game.
USC already clinched the Pac-12 South and UCLA is a 15-point underdog just trying to get bowl eligible. But the game could feature the top two quarterbacks selected in next spring’s NFL draft.
That is the sliver of hope for an attractive game. It’s not much, but what else do you want when Clay Helton and Jim Mora are involved?
This is the glamour quarterbacks’ first meeting because Rosen was injured last season. This is also Rosen’s chance to atone for 2015, when he threw two interceptions against USC and fumbled for a 31-yard touchdown return.
If Rosen loses, he would be in elite company because Troy Aikman went 0-2 against USC. If only Darnold vs. Rosen compared to Aikman vs. Rodney Peete in 1988. The Bruins were ranked sixth, the Trojans second and 100,741 attended the game at the Rose Bowl. Aikman passed for 327 yards and two touchdowns but USC won, 31-22.
Peete finished second and Aikman third in the Heisman Trophy that year. In 1987, UCLA led 13-0 but Aikman threw three interceptions in the second half and Peete completed a touchdown pass to Erik Affholter for a 17-13 victory.
The banner matchup of all-time would be in 1967, when UCLA quarterback Gary Beban and USC tailback O.J. Simpson squared off. Each won a Heisman Trophy. The teams were ranked 1-2 in the coaches’ poll entering the game and USC won, 21-20, as Simpson scored the winning touchdown on a 64-yard run.
This rivalry desperately needs some excitement so it needs Darnold vs. Rosen. Can anyone remember the last thrilling game in the series? USC won, 38-35, in 2000. UCLA won in double overtime, 48-41, in 1996. If Darnold-Rosen can produce some drama, it will exceed the low expectations.
But who thinks they will? USC’s porous secondary could help make it competitive, but the Trojans might not even want to pass the ball with UCLA’s atrocious run defense.
It’s a rough season when two teams’ inconsistency is the primary reason to predict a close game.
THE CLOWN-12 CONFERENCE
In this week’s installment, the Pac-12 once again had a Friday night game pre-empted because truck racing went late on Fox Sports 1. After all the crashes, the first quarter of the Washington-Stanford game, which had Pac-12 North title implications,…