John Barnes sneaked into last year's USC-UCLA game, showing his former girlfriend's USC student ID to the ticket taker.
"I imagined what it would be like to play in the game when I was sitting in the stands," said Barnes, who had played that season at UC Santa Barbara.
Barnes won't have to imagine anymore and he certainly won't have to sneak into today's USC-UCLA game at 4:30 at the Rose Bowl because he will probably be playing quarterback for the Bruins.
Barnes, who transferred to UCLA when Santa Barbara dropped football after last season, might start his third game for the Bruins. He started in last week's 9-6 victory at Oregon, gave way briefly to redshirt freshman Rob Walker, then came back and passed for a season-high 156 yards and a touchdown as the Bruins rallied from a 6-0 fourth-quarter deficit.
Before last week, Walker had been sidelined for four weeks because of an ankle injury. UCLA Coach Terry Donahue hasn't decided whether Barnes or Walker will start, but he said that both will play for the Bruins, who have won two consecutive games after losing their first five in the Pacific 10 and are 5-5 overall.
There is no indecision about who will play quarterback for USC. Rob Johnson, who has passed for 1,555 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, ranks second in passing efficiency in the Pac-10 behind Arizona State's Grady Benton. Johnson passed for 213 yards during last week's 14-7 victory over Arizona. In a twist, Johnson even caught the winning touchdown pass from tailback Deon Strother.
The 15th-ranked Trojans (6-2-1 and 5-2), have a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl, Freedom Bowl or Hancock Bowl. USC will tie Stanford for second place in the Pac-10 if the Trojans beat the Bruins and the Cardinal beats California. The Trojans would also earn a share of the conference title if they won and Washington State beat Washington, which has already clinched its third consecutive Rose Bowl trip.
USC Coach Larry Smith says his team, which is favored by 8 1/2 points, won't be overconfident. USC had clinched the Rose Bowl berth and was favored by 17 points over the Bruins in 1989, but UCLA, which had lost five in a row, played the Trojans to a 10-10 tie.
"I don't think that you can compare '89 and '92 because we have a lot to play for," Smith said. "We don't have anything wrapped up. We're still in there fighting to get as much as we can get.
"As far as getting the players' attention this week, you don't have any problem. You get their attention because when you go over the scouting report and say so and so is at right tackle, you see heads snap up--'Oh, yeah, I played against that guy or with that guy.' So rivalries already exist."
UCLA has more modest bowl hopes than USC but has them, nevertheless. The Bruins have outside shots at bids to the Copper Bowl in Tucson or the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., but only if they defeat the Trojans--and even that might not be enough.
"I think it's a longshot because Arizona State and Washington State are ahead of us in the standings," UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis said.
A winning record would seem to be a more realistic goal than a bowl bid for the Bruins, who need a victory today to avoid their third losing season in the last four years.
"It's something that I never would have thought of when I signed with UCLA, that we'd struggle like we have," senior cornerback Carlton Gray said. "But hopefully, we can finish with a winning record.
UCLA wide receiver Sean LaChapelle, who has sat out three of the Bruins' last five games because of a cracked rib, will play today. UCLA cornerback Carl Greenwood, sidelined for two weeks because of a hamstring injury, is also expected to play. Nose guard Sale Isaia, defensive end London Woodfin, and linebacker Garrett Greedy, who have been bothered by various injuries, might play. Defensive tackle Matt Werner and linebackers Shane Jasper and Rod Smalley won't. . . . Trojan sophomore offensive tackle Tony Boselli is doubtful because of a sprained ankle and USC guards Kris Pollack, Clay Hattabaugh, fullback Rory Brown, nose guard Thomas Holland, offensive tackle Keith Siscel and tailback Conrad Coleman are sidelined because of injuries.
Although UCLA tailback Kevin Williams rushed for 95 yards last week after sitting out four of five games because of a hamstring injury, Coach Terry Donahue said that Chris Alexander will probably start at tailback. Alexander gained only 15 yards in 11 carries last week against Oregon after rushing for a personal-best 227 yards against Oregon State the previous week. . . . Estrus Crayton will probably start at tailback for USC in place of Dwight McFadden, who started last week.
USC, which leads the series, 34-20-7, has won its last two games against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, including a 45-42 victory in 1990. . . . USC Coach Larry Smith is 5-4-2 overall against UCLA, including a 3-1-1 mark at USC and 2-3-1 at Arizona. . . . Donahue is 6-9-1 against USC. A defensive tackle at UCLA in 1965 and '66 and an assistant coach from 1970-75, he was 2-0 as a player against the Trojans and 1-3-1 as an assistant coach.
UCLA's defense, which ranks 12th in the nation with an average yield of 286.7 yards, hopes to contain USC flanker Curtis Conway, who ranks first in the conference in kickoff returns with a 28.8-yard average, second in all-purpose yards at 160.8, fourth in receiving yards at 67.9 and fifth in punt returns at 11.2. Donahue said the Bruins won't kick to Conway, who has scored once on a punt return and once on a kickoff return this season.