Biggest USC-UCLA football matchup in decades stirs up ‘bitter feeling’ from years past

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is as fearless chatting with the media as he’s throwing tight-window passes or hurdling diving defenders.

The UCLA quarterback held nothing again earlier this week when discussing Saturday’s extremely anticipated showdown towards crosstown rival USC.

Asked what his closing matchup with USC means to him, Thompson-Robinson bluntly defined to reporters, “Obviously we hate these guys throughout city. There’s a bitter feeling with these guys.” The fifth-year senior added that he hopes to surpass his exploits from the USC sport a 12 months in the past when he accounted for six touchdowns in a 62-33 UCLA romp.

“We need to be even higher,” mentioned Thompson-Robinson. “We need to break 60 and all that stuff.”

Thompson-Robinson’s candor provides contemporary intrigue to what was already the highest-stakes USC-UCLA football sport in 17 years. The Trojans and Bruins have not each entered this sport with such gaudy information since Reggie Bush was zigzagging by way of defenses sporting cardinal and gold and Maurice Jones-Drew was operating by way of arm tackles clad in powder blue.

USC (9-1, 7-1 in Pac-12) is the Pac-12’s final hope for a berth in this season’s College Football Playoff. The Trojans should win large rivalry video games towards UCLA and Notre Dame, defeat Oregon, Utah or Washington in the Pac-12 title sport and hope that is sufficient to ascend from their present No. 7 spot in the playoff choice committee’s rankings.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) accounted for six touchdowns in a 62-33 victory over USC final 12 months. He’s searching for an encore efficiency on Saturday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times by way of Getty Images)

While UCLA’s personal faint playoff hopes disintegrated with final Saturday’s gorgeous face plant towards Arizona, the Bruins (8-2, 5-2) have extra to play for this week than simply spoiling USC’s season. UCLA can nonetheless win a tiebreaker to advance to the Pac-12 title sport if it wins out towards USC and Cal and Washington lose no less than yet one more sport.

The stakes have distracted Los Angeles sports activities followers from the Lakers’ struggles for no less than one weekend. UCLA introduced on Tuesday that the USC sport is a sellout and that it’s anticipating a pupil turnout of 16,700, which might be the most important in faculty historical past.

If UCLA’s loss to Arizona sucked any air out of Saturday’s showdown, Thompson-Robinson’s verbal barbs pumped it proper again up. USC gamers reacted to the UCLA quarterback’s objective of breaking 60 factors once more with a combination of humility, incredulity and resolve.

“He mentioned that?” USC security Calen Bullock requested reporters.

When instructed that Thompson-Robinson did, Bullock chuckled and mentioned, “He has his personal opinion.”

“I do know that is not going to occur,” Bullock added.

Piling up one other 60 factors towards USC is an bold objective, however UCLA is explosive sufficient to strike worry in any protection. The Bruins have averaged 39.5 factors per sport this season thanks largely to Thompson-Robinson’s environment friendly passing and improvisation underneath stress, senior Zach Charbonnet’s tackle-breaking runs and Duke switch Jake Bobo’s highlight-reel catches. Charbonnet tallied 167 speeding yards in final 12 months’s UCLA victory. He needs to be a focus of the Bruins’ sport plan once more this 12 months towards a suspect USC defensive entrance.

Where UCLA has been extra weak is on protection, particularly by way of the air. Quarterbacks far much less gifted than USC’s Caleb Williams have persistently carved up UCLA’s secondary to this point this season. The Trojans will miss injured operating again Travis Dye, the guts and soul of this 12 months’s workforce, however Lincoln Riley has different gamers able to step up. Stanford switch Austin Jones can run the ball capably and five-star freshman Raleek Brown has been ready for his likelihood to shine.

“Those different guys are good,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly instructed reporters on Monday. “And then there’s weapons in all places, whether or not it is at receiver, at quarterback or at operating again. It’s not only a operating back-driven offense.”

What the matchups recommend is that that is prone to be a shootout, simply because the past few video games in this sequence have been.

On Dec. 12, 2020, USC got here to the Rose Bowl and eked out a 43-38 victory in the ultimate minute. Afterwards, in keeping with Thompson-Robinson, the Trojans talked trash to the Bruins on their method off the sector.

“I keep in mind that clear as day,” the UCLA quarterback mentioned. “Cussing at us, flipping us off. Disrespectful as you will get.”

Last 12 months, on the Coliseum, the Bruins received their revenge. Thompson-Robinson famously earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a late landing run when he compelled a 12-year-old USC fan who held out a UCLA hat for him to signal.

Now comes Thompson-Robinson’s closing USC-UCLA sport, probably the most important one but.

“There’s positively a bitter feeling towards these guys throughout city,” Thompson-Robinson mentioned, “so we will attempt to do all the things we are able to to go on the market and win.”

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