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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 12 PRIMER / THE LOCALS

November 20, 1998|ROBYN NORWOOD

USC (7-3, 5-2)

at No. 3 UCLA (9-0, 7-0)

* Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Channel 7

* Story line: UCLA's 19-game winning streak and national title hopes, USC's determination to end its seven-game losing streak against the Bruins . . . it's all on the line at the Rose Bowl in one of the most anticipated games in years. Worth noting: The last three times the teams have met when UCLA was unbeaten, the Trojans have won--in 1967, '69 and '76. But USC is riding another streak it is ready to end: The Trojans are 0-5 against ranked teams over the last two seasons, with their last victory over a top 25 team in 1996 against Notre Dame.

* USC update: Freshman quarterback Carson Palmer takes his first shot at the Bruins--much as Cade McNown did for UCLA three years ago when unranked UCLA upset No. 11 USC, 24-20. "I look at Carson, maybe in three years he'll be in the same position, with 30 starts," Coach Paul Hackett said. "That's why Cade is top-notch, because of all his experience plus his ability." With receiver R. Jay Soward, the Trojans' biggest weapon against UCLA two years running, hampered by a sprained ankle, USC must pin its hopes on its defense slowing down the UCLA offensive machine. No team has held UCLA under 28 points all season. The Trojans would like to be the first. One statistic USC can take to heart: The average margin of UCLA's victory during the streak is less than six points.

* UCLA update: Do the Bruins have another escape in them after teetering against Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State, or can McNown and Co. turn a game everyone figures will be close into a UCLA offensive show? A Trojan defense led by Butkus Award finalist Chris Claiborne will have its sights on McNown, but receivers Danny Farmer, 6-feet-4, and Brian Poli-Dixon, 6-5, have more than an edge on USC's sub-6-foot cornerbacks, Daylon McCutcheon and Antuan Simmons. Farmer, with 906 receiving yards, is close to becoming only the fourth Bruin to get 1,000 yards in a season. Hold your breath if it comes down to the kickers: UCLA's Chris Sailer and USC's Adam Abrams have both been streaky.

* Edge to UCLA: The Trojan defense will be the toughest UCLA has seen, but when the game--and the season--are on the line, McNown makes the plays.

* Line: UCLA by 6 1/2.

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