UCLA vs. USC in a Big Media Market Is Good for the Entire Pac-12

Kyle KensingContributor INovember 25, 2013

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 17:  General view of the game between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on November 17, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

No conference boasts a media presence within its geographic footprint quite like the Pac-12 has in Los Angeles. The nation's second largest TV market is a key facet of the conference's identity and should only continue gaining importance as both UCLA and USC improve.

Los Angeles' significance for the conference is evident every summer when, before the season, Pac-12 media day is hosted there. It's the nation's, and thus conference's, media epicenter. With the UCLA-USC rivalry showing signs of becoming one of the nation's most competitive, Los Angeles could become the epicenter for all of college football. 

A renewed significance to the Bruins' and Trojans' crosstown rivalry gives this year's installment a much different aura the series has lacked for more than two decades. UCLA dominated throughout the 1990s, winning every game from 1991 to 1998. The start of a new millennium marked a new era of dominance, as USC's reign over the conference included 12 wins in 13 meetings from 1999 through 2011. 

There's no shame in UCLA's futility against USC during the 2000s. Those Trojans teams were some of the nation's best, which brought the attention of the college football-following attention to Los Angeles.

If one standout team in the City of Angels was good for the Pac-12, two teams would be great. And that's the direction in which the UCLA-USC rivalry is moving.   

This season, both come in sporting Top 25 rankings for the first time since 2005. However, these teams are much more evenly matched than the rivals who met eight years ago in a 66-19 Trojans rout—the 1967 Game of the Century it wasn't. 

Recapturing the magic of the Game of the Century's era, when closely contested games played for Rose Bowl berths were the norm, is a potential boon to the Pac-12's overall profile. Look no further than last year's matchup, which was a TV ratings winner, according to Sports Media Watch

Both programs are on the ascent. UCLA's began with the hire of Jim Mora before the 2012 season. His passion and tough-nosed approach immediately transformed the Bruins' identity. A team that lost to USC the year prior 50-0—the second-most lopsided margin in series history—turned around to win, 38-28, and claim the Pac-12 South divisional championship. 

Linebacker Anthony Barr's tackle of USC quarterback Matt Barkley ended the latter's college career in a moment seemingly symbolic of the rivalry's direction—USC's reign was over, and UCLA was ready to begin a new era. 

A little over one year later, though, that just isn't the case. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has led USC to a change of identity even quicker than Mora's at UCLA. The only Pac-12 team hotter coming into Saturday's final week is Arizona State, which, not coincidentally, is also the last conference opponent to beat the Trojans.

Arizona State clinched the division last week at UCLA, taking any title implications off the table Saturday. At stake, however, is the right to plant a flag in a city central to the conference's brand. 

Los Angeles is the most fertile ground in college football both for gaining new, local fans, as well as gaining exposure nationally. Sure, the Big Ten adds Rutgers next season in an effort to plant its flag in the New York market, largest in the nation. But Rutgers doesn't have the historic success or fan support to match either USC or UCLA. 

College football is simply more ingrained in the Los Angeles sports culture than it is in the Northeast. High school football teams in and around the metroplex supplement most of the rosters throughout the Pac-12, particularly those at USC and UCLA.

Los Angeles has no NFL franchise, which makes Pac-12 football the only game in a very big town. And this in indeed a town big enough for both them—just don't tell any Trojans or Bruins.