UCLA began to shed its "gutty little Bruins'' image on November 17, 2012.
On one play, linebacker Anthony Barr ended the college football career of USC quarterback Matt Barkley. His devastating sack stopped USC's late-fourth quarter comeback. Barkley left the game with an injured shoulder, and UCLA eventually won 38-28.
At Pac-12 Media Day on Friday, Barr ripped apart the last remnants of his program's image and tossed it into a trash can. Asked by ESPN's Ted Miller what his reaction was every time he saw a picture or video of his hit on Barkley, Barr ripped the USC offensive tackle who was assigned to block him. "I want to know why that [offensive] tackle let me go, for whatever reason. He should be standing up here talking to you guys...because he was the reason why I was able to make that play.''
The Bruins are no longer that undersized team that won games because of its willpower or emotional fortitude. They are the bigger, faster and stronger two-time Pac-12 South champions. They are also on record as the team that drew first blood in the annual smack talk between USC and UCLA.
At 6'4" and 248 pounds, Barr is the NFL-prototype linebacker. He was recently timed at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to NFL.com. He has a deep voice and an edge about him, maybe even a chip on his shoulder. Most linebackers do.
The new targeting rule going into effect in 2013 calls for a 15-yard penalty and immediate ejection for any player who targets a defenseless player.
Barr said he was going to play "at full speed" and "if I get penalized because of it, then so be it."
That's not a gutty little Bruin's attitude. That's big boy football, right there. Head coach Jim Mora has made an impact on Bruin football that is refreshing. The team is more focused, more intense and well, just more aggressive. And his team knows that USC is beatable.
Barr wants the schools' rivalry game to have more impact in the league.
"Hopefully, that game at the end of the year has some relevance, and we can actually play to see who wins the Pac-12 South [division]," he said.
Barr turned down a chance to declare early for the 2013 NFL draft. He wants more. More game from USC? Maybe. He certainly implied that at Pac-12 Media Day.
The USC-UCLA rivalry could use more splash. UCLA beat USC in eight consecutive years from 1991-98. Since then, the Bruins have won two games. USC leads the series 46-29-7.
But UCLA is not intimidated by anyone, and USC is battling its way back from a 7-6 season. UCLA was picked by Pac-12 media representatives to finish first in the Pac-12 South. USC was picked to finish third.
With Barr's inflammatory comments, this rivalry just got a lot more heated.