A Pac-12 title race, the Big Ten relocation and the

7:00 AM ET Paolo UggettiESPN SHANE LEE WAS CONFUSED. The USC linebacker went out of Monday early morning conferences today and saw the Trojan statue near the center of campus covered in sparkling silver tape pulled taut. Lee, who transferred to USC this offseason from Alabama needed to turn to backup quarterback Miller Moss for clarification. “I believed UCLA did it or something, “Lee stated.”They told me it’s just for protection. “Lee learns about Auburn’s

Toomer’s Corner, the Iron Bowl and what SEC ridicule for another team appears like. However the mild-mannered linebacker is brand-new to the Pac-12’s marquee rivalry. He’s not the only one. With a brand brand-new head coach in Lincoln Riley, a brand-new coaching personnel and more than 40 transfer players, the usual contempt between the two teams has actually felt tempered today.”We’re not doing anything honestly too particular with this competition and not to discount it in any way,” Riley stated.”We’ve acknowledged that it is a competition game.

There’s a lot of history behind it. It’s going to be a terrific game to play in. But past that, I think we’re really zeroed in on what our company believe is going to help us play well, which’s where our focus is going to be.” USC’s technique to the game has actually been mostly matter of truth. To hear players– pillars who have actually been there for five seasons to those who

are brand new– speak about it, there is excitement, but absolutely nothing close to identified disdain for UCLA.West of downtown Los Angeles, there was at least one player who wasn’t avoiding providing any bulletin board material. Over five years in Westwood, Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s filter has only dissipated as his self-confidence has risen. When it comes to USC, he’s long past the point of holding back. “Obviously we hate those guys across town,”Thompson-Robinson stated on Monday.”There’s definitely a bitter feeling towards those men.”Institutional antagonism has actually discovered its way deep into Thompson-Robinson’s vocabulary since, unlike the majority of USC players, he’s revved up for this game five times and, after Saturday, played in it four times. However if entering into a war of words was the goal, USC players did not engage.”Even all the guys that’ve been here and the new guys that came in, we are all treating it pretty much the exact same, “Lee said.”It’s just another game, a game that’s on our list that we need to go out there and function.”That point of view highlights what a special year this is for the competition. For the very first time given that Pete Carroll left for the NFL, USC is being led by a coach without any roots to the program and a lineup filled with players who have actually pertained to invest one season, perhaps

two, at the school. It’s not just the Trojans. “I don’t believe anyone– the fan bases may have something to say about this– but I do not believe anyone on the team truly hates anyone on the other team, “stated UCLA wide receiver Jake Bobo, who transferred from Duke.”So at the end of the day, it’s simply a big

game, we need a win today, they obviously require a win also, so I’m thrilled.” Stakes– not bitterness– might be what give this sold-out game at the Rose Bowl the greatest boost. Even after Arizona beat UCLA last week, preventing the game from most likely being the first top-10 matchup in between the teams since 1988, there’s plenty to bet. Both programs require a win to keep their seasons alive. When it comes to the Bruins, a win still provides a shot at making the Pac-12 title game and their first Rose Bowl because 1999. A loss removes them. For the Trojans, a win would punch their ticket to that title game and keep their playoff hopes alive as a one-loss team.This season, the competition and the regional bragging rights appear 2nd to the truth that there are larger things to want to, in today and the near future, particularly as both teams get closer to their eventual, questionable departure to the Huge 10

in 2024.”When both teams are excellent and there are a great deal of chances ahead for both teams,”Riley stated today of rivalry games, “it makes it way, way much better.” Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t mince words ahead of UCLA’s game with USC:” Undoubtedly we dislike those men across town.” AP Photo/Ashley Landis JUST A FEW years earlier, in the days of Steve Sarkisian and

Clay Helton, there was a USC player or more who would watch on the sidelines of the Trojans ‘practices at Howard Jones Field in search of any shade of bluethroughout UCLA week. Media, staffers and any others who remained in participation were called out for wearing the color of the team across town, even if sometimes, it wasn’t rather the shade of the group across town. It didn’t matter. Heaven was not to be seen.The Riley regime has actually been different in numerous ways, and this week featured none of that. While the sidelines of that same practice field included USC players being asked lots of concerns about their feelings toward the game, and the Bruins at large, the message they voiced rang like that of a choir who had actually all completely struck the exact same note.”I have not discovered much about the competition to be truthful, “said quarterback Caleb Williams.”It’s simply another game to me.””It’s just any other game really,”stated running back Austin Jones.” At the end of the day we got to head out there and play our brand of ball.” “We’re just taking it week by week, attempting to be the most effective team we can be,”senior offending lineman Andrew Vorhees said when asked if, having actually had experience with the rivalry, he has actually tried

to amp up the energy in practice this week.”I indicate, we heard the Rose Bowl is offered out so, we’ll see what that resembles.”

“You got ta make sure that winning football is winning football no matter what the logo designs on our helmets are, “defensive organizer Alex Grinch said.Grinch needed to even catch himself when enhancing Chip Kelly, with whom he worked at New Hampshire as a cornerbacks coach when Kelly was the head coach.” I got a great deal of regard for Chip,”

Grinch stated.”I call him a pal and I have actually been a fan for– I can’t be a fan anymore, it’s the method it goes– but I am, I have been for a long period of time.

“Recently, the game has been less about 2 great groups facing off and more about the built-in hostility between the programs. In 2015, Thompson-Robinson ran roughshod over a USC team that remained in disarray and went 4-8. Today, he said he wanted to score 60 points on the Trojans, who he recalled”cussing us out and turning us off”

in the 2020 version of the game at the Rose Bowl. “As disrespectful as you can get,” Thompson-Robinson said. “So we have actually got to head out there on Saturday and do the best we can to win this game, so we know what’s at stake and we know what it indicates to our fans and this community, we’ve got to head out there and win this game.” In some methods, Thompson-Robinson is a passing away breed.

Not just is his case unique– normally, players face their competitors for just four seasons and he was awarded an extra year of eligibility due to the fact that of the COVID-19 pandemic– but with the introduction of the transfer portal and USC and UCLA’s looming exodus to the Big Ten, this competition will, at the very least, develop, if not have fewer and fewer players and figures who feel the need to lean into the match. As long as talent goes into the website, transfers will keep making their way to Southern California, and in a brand-new conference, larger games against the Ohio States and Michigans of the world may end up being more important in the race to what is likely an expanded playoff.The paradox of an outbound Thompson-Robinson expressing his hatred for USC is that the 2 programs discover themselves closer than ever thanks to not simply the rankings, but that contentious, impending defection from the conference they sit at the top of this season. Just as Riley seems to have USC heading back to the top of the sport and Kelly is discovering his stride in Westwood, the 2 teams not only appear to be playing their best ball in some time, they’re likewise discovering themselves joined in an ongoing advancement to overthrow the sport. Following Oregon’s loss to Washington and UCLA’s loss to Arizona in Week 11, USC is the Pac-12’s last opportunity at this season’s College Football Playoff. AP Photo/John McCoy FROM PARKING LOT tailgates in Eugene where fans curse the USC and UCLA names when discussing the relocate to the Big 10

(only to question in the next breath if they’re next), to new commissioner George Kliavkoff understandably maligning the departure at every turn as he tries to secure a new media rights offer and change the 2 outgoing schools, the spectrum of emotions that have actually been born out of the L.A. schools’move East has actually made this season in the Pac-12 a remarkable one. The fuel to that fire is that, from a football viewpoint, it has been an excellent year for the conference and an outstanding season for its two departing members. Case in point: 6 Pac-12 groups are ranked in the latest version of the College Football Playoff poll, the most of any conference.In numerous methods, this season from USC and UCLA is exactly what the conference has actually been missing the previous few years and part of the factor it has stopped working to compete with the SEC, Big 10 and even the Huge 12. In other methods, this season from the Bruins and Trojans might be viewed as proof that their transition to the Big 10 is forward believing and essential(see: the 10:30 p.m. ET kickoffs and the 3 required appearances on Pac-12 Network ). Or in the case of the Bruins, economically vital. Pac-12 After Dark is fun and all, however so is playing in prime time and a$7 billion media deal.The kicker is that this relocation is not rather a done offer. While both USC and UCLA have actually consistently declined to discuss an exodus that’s still two years away, the University of California Board of Regents has been put in a position to decide the fate of UCLA, which, unlike USC, is a public institution that becomes part of the UC system. In the beginning, UCLA appeared to have made the relocation with no problems and unspoken approval from the regents. But as more discussion was come up with about how the relocation might harm UCLA’s sister school, Cal, the board of regents has actually reaffirmed its power to hold UCLA back if it so chooses.On Thursday, the regents could have voted on the relocation, however instead they revealed a Dec. 14 session would be held to either authorize or rescind the decision on UCLA’s Huge Ten subscription. To put it simply, there is still a world in which the regents choose to outright block the Bruins’relocation and the USC-UCLA rivalry is, at least, stopped briefly, if not permanently put on hold after next season.Even if the UCLA-USC competition does not disappear, it is definitely developing. Which, a minimum of, serves to make Saturday’s game feel more like the one Thompson-Robinson is hyping up than the one USC players are attempting to downplay as just another game.Yet for all the rather lukewarm energy surrounding this game from a competition perspective, coaches and players acknowledged that as soon as Saturday comes, the emotions will be high and USC will appreciate beating UCLA in the exact same method UCLA will appreciate beating USC.”A great deal of feeling and strength and enjoyment in these games and that’s what makes them fun, right?, “Riley said. “Sometimes in the heat of the fight you need to really stabilize it, but you also need to have the intensity, too. You can’t do it without that.”As part of the regents ‘program upgrade this week, a report and survey of professional athletes commissioned by UCLA and the UC Office

of the President was consisted of that shed some light on one thing. Professional athletes at UCLA were asked what they thought the benefits were to making the transfer to the Big Ten. Of the 20 %of professional athletes who took part, only 28% pointed out maintaining rivalry with USC as one of the advantages. And yet, as the report explains, triggered by a separate question 93 %of respondents stated it was very important or really essential to have USC and UCLA in the very same conference, while only 24 %stated it was important for Cal and UCLA in the exact same conference.Even if this year’s game brings high stakes however low hostility, it appears a minimum of some athletes still appreciate being in the same conference as their primary rival. And if the previous 2 years of realignment in college football have taught us anything, it’s that keeping your buddies close but your enemies better seems to settle.

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