USC vs. UCLA: Top 10 Moments in the Rivalry
The Battle for Los Angeles is just five days away, and tensions are mounting in the city as fans of both teams prepare for the annual showdown between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins.
The campuses of each school are 13.4 miles away from each other, which creates a unique relationship between the fanbases in the city.
Both schools are premier academic institutions and have a variety of successful sports teams. The competition between the two schools is fierce, and that energy bleeds into the culture of LA as a whole.
Los Angelenos make their allegiance known, repping cardinal or powder blue at every opportunity.
Because Bruins and Trojans work together, drive on the same freeways and shop at the same stores, the smug, annoying faces of the other guys are always present, always taunting. It's a fierce, bitter rivalry these two teams share, shaped mostly recently by the fact that after a decade of being dominated, UCLA got the better of USC the last time these teams met.
And this season, with UCLA and USC being ranked No. 22 and No. 23 respectively, expect the rivalry to be just as heated as ever. The Bruins currently have possession of the Victory Bell, but will that remain the case after Saturday?
As we gear up for the next chapter, let's take a moment to reflect on the top 10 moments in the history of one of the greatest rivalries in college football, in chronological order.
1967: O.J. Simpson Breaks Free for a 64-Yard, Game-Winning Touchdown
Nov. 18, 1967—a day that will live in infamy in Los Angeles for all time. It's known as "The Game of the Century", and for good reason.
The No. 1 UCLA Bruins and No. 2 USC Trojans went to battle in the Coliseum with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.
The two teams slugged it out for four quarters, but UCLA looked to pull away early in the fourth quarter when eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Gary Beban threw a touchdown pass to put the Bruins up 20-14. The extra point was blocked, foreshadowing the events to come for USC.
Quarterback Toby Page was under center for USC.
When he noticed a UCLA linebacker drop back into pass coverage, he changed the play prior to the snap. Instead of a pass, he handed the ball off to O.J. Simpson, who broke through a cluster of tacklers, cut down the sideline then darted across the field for a 64-yard touchdown run. USC made the extra point, and would go on to win the game 21-20.
That play is one of the cornerstones in this rivalry, and the game as a whole is considered one of the defining chapters in the series.
With the win, USC finished that season ranked No. 1 and would beat the Indiana Hoosiers in the 1968 Rose Bowl.
1975: UCLA Clinches Rose Bowl Berth in Defeating USC
After stuffing themselves to content during Thanksgiving festivities the day before, Trojans and Bruins piled into the Coliseum on a brisk, Black Friday evening to watch these titans clash.
In his final game in the Coliseum, USC head coach John McKay and his Trojans looked to dash UCLA's hopes of going to the Rose Bowl.
If the Trojans had won, California would have gone instead. For a while, the Trojans looked to do just that—the Bruins fumbled 11 times and USC recovered eight of them.
Alas, the Bruins would overcome their sloppy play and beat USC 25-22, clinching an appearance in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 10 years. UCLA would go on to win the 1976 Rose Bowl, beating Ohio State 23-10.
1982: USC Fails the Two-Point Conversion Attempt
This classic chapter in the rivalry is another game regarded as one of the greatest between these two teams.
UCLA needed the win to keep its Rose Bowl hopes alive, and that looked to be in serious jeopardy when USC scored in the final seconds of the game, bringing it to 20-19.
The Trojans had to decide whether to kick for the tie or go for the win. Head coach John Robinson decided USC had come too far to settle for the tie, so he dialed up a two-point conversion attempt.
Unfortunately for USC, the Trojans failed to convert, and the Bruins would take home the W.
1988: Erik Affholter's Game-Winning 29-Yard Touchdown Catch
In 1988, USC and UCLA met for what is commonly referred to as "The Measles Game."
USC quarterback Rodney Peete had missed the whole week of practice due to the measles. Even the Friday night before the game, nobody thought he would play. Come game day, he decided to fully embody USC's mantra and fought on through it, leading the No. 2 Trojans to a 31-22 victory over the No. 4, Troy Aikman-led Bruins.
This game is memorable for many reasons, but one of the most famous moments came late in the fourth quarter on a USC 3rd-and-3. Peete dropped back to pass and hit Erik Affholter, who evaded a few tacklers then sprinted down the sideline for the end zone.
When he reached the promised land, the USC crowd went wild.
There are some still-bitter Bruins that will argue that Affholter was out of bounds, but everyone in Troy knows he just toed that line skillfully.
So was he in or out? You be the judge.
1990: Marinovich Finds Johnnie Morton in the Endzone
This game was another slugfest between the Trojans and Bruins, a thrilling matchup that saw UCLA leading USC 42-38 with under a minute to play in the game.
With the clock winding down on USC's opportunity, quarterback Todd Marinovich executed a masterful final drive.
He completed two big passes over the middle of the field, setting up for his best pass yet. In the final 16 seconds, Marinovich dropped back and eyed Johnnie Morton in the end zone. He heaved the ball up—taking a hit from a Bruin as he did so—and Morton delivered with the 23-yard catch.
Trojan fans lost their minds, and USC would go on to win 45-42.
1993: Rob Johnson Throws Game-Ending Interception
The 1994 Rose Bowl was on the line for both teams when one of the most devastating moments for USC fans—and one of the best ones for UCLA fans—occurred.
UCLA led the Trojans 27-21 as the game came down to the wire.
The game was in Trojan quarterback Rob Johnson's hands, and he had one last shot to see his team to victory.
But it didn't play out the way USC would have liked. Johnson tossed up a pass that could have been the game winner, but instead he was picked off, securing the victory for the Bruins.
1996: UCLA Forces OT After Trailing by 17 in the 4th Quarter
In 1996, USC was beating the Bruins something serious.
The Trojans held a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead over their crosstown rivals, but then something crazy happened. The Bruins mounted a terrific fourth quarter comeback, and the Trojans collapsed in spectacular fashion.
UCLA rallied from 17 points down, forcing the first overtime game in the history of the rivalry.
Interestingly, the 1996 season also marked the first time overtime was added to college football. UCLA would keep its momentum going and defeated USC 48-41 in double overtime.
Since then, these rivals have yet to play another overtime game. Will 2013 be the year that changes?
2001: USC's First Win Under Pete Carroll Sparks Beginning of Decade of Dominance
In 2001, USC hired some guy named Pete Carroll, and it was one of the greatest coaching hires in the history of the program.
When Carroll's Trojans faced the Bruins at the end of the season, his team had every intention of letting the Bruins know which squad ran Los Angeles.
Fueled by the fiery, commanding style of football USC became known for under Carroll, the Trojans blanked the Bruins 27-0 in front of their Coliseum home crowd.
The win sparked the beginning of USC's decade of dominance over its crosstown rival, allowing the Trojans to have a stranglehold on Los Angeles for a solid 10 seasons.
Except for that one season—the one game USC fans wish they could forget the most.
2006: UCLA Takes USC out of Title Contention
The last hurdle in USC's path to the 2007 National Championship game was a gimme tilt with UCLA.
USC had hung 66 on the Bruins the previous year, while shredding them for over 700 yards. It could not have been easier for USC to roll the Bruins and march triumphantly into the title game.
Except that didn't happen.
Instead, UCLA—fueled by the vicious beatdown it received the season before—sought some revenge against the Trojans. And did the Bruins get it.
They beat USC 13-9, humiliating the Trojans and taking them out of title contention.
Of all the losses USC has suffered at the hands of UCLA, this has to be one of the most painful. To this day, some USC fans still look back on it scornfully.
2011: USC Beats UCLA 50-0
Ten years after Pete Carroll and the Trojans shutout the Bruins 27-0, Lane Kiffin and his USC team did the same thing, only better.
Once USC started scoring, UCLA was powerless to stop them.
Trojan fans never grew tired of their team delivering such a beating. USC quarterback Matt Barkley and his receivers had a field day with the Bruins defense, ripping them apart for 423 yards and six touchdowns.
In hanging half a hundred on UCLA, USC won by its largest margin of victory since 1930.
Rick Neuheisel was promptly fired—the coach who, upon his hiring, declared the football monopoly in LA to be over. Throughout the decade, USC let UCLA know that it certainly was not.
Because of NCAA sanctions, USC couldn't go to the inaugural Pac-12 title game, making UCLA the Pac-12 South champions by default. However, Kiffin had shirts made that read "Pac-12 South Champions", dumping even more salt into UCLA's gaping wounds.
Through the years, these ten moments have defined the USC/UCLA rivalry.
Though the outcome has yet to be determined, we can expect USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron and UCLA head coach Jim Mora to write yet another riveting chapter in the illustrious book of classic games between these two programs.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!