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For Bruins and Trojans, it's all about L.A.

Saturday's game between the crosstown rivals won't make a dent on the national scene, but the teams still have plenty to play for on their own terms.

November 28, 2009|By Gary Klein and Chris Foster
  • UCLA and redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince (14) take on USC and true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley (7) in the battle for L.A. on Saturday night.
UCLA and redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince (14) take on USC and… (Photos by Gina Ferazzi /…)

For the first time since 2001, Los Angeles' crosstown football rivalry doesn't have implications for a major bowl game. But that doesn't mean there aren't important things to play for. USC leads the series, 43-28-7, and has won nine of its last 10 games against the Bruins. Times staff writers Gary Klein and Chris Foster examine some of the issues involved in this year's game:

Freshmen quarterbacks: Rise and fall

Both teams start freshmen at quarterback, though UCLA's Kevin Prince is in his second full year with the Bruins.

Statistically, it's a tossup.

USC's Matt Barkley has completed 146 of 252 passes. Prince has completed 147 of 255.

Barkley has thrown for 2,035 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Prince has thrown for 1,739 yards, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 6-5.

But lately, their performances have been headed in opposite directions.

Prince's stock is up, Barkley's down.

In his last 11 quarters, Prince has completed 64 of 101 passes for 885 yards and four touchdowns.

In his last 10 quarters, Barkley has completed 33 of 71 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns -- with five interceptions.

Leaders of the pack

This game will feature two national leaders -- both from UCLA.

Free safety Rahim Moore leads major college football with nine interceptions, and Bruins kicker Kai Forbath is No. 1 with 26 field goals and 11th in scoring with 99 points.

UCLA tackle Brian Price is tied for third with 20.5 tackles for losses, and the Bruins are tied for ninth as a team, averaging 7.8 tackles for losses a game.

Also for UCLA, Jeff Locke is ninth in the nation in punting, averaging 44.0 yards.

USC is tied for third in quarterback sacks, averaging 3.2 a game, and defensive end Everson Griffen has eight. He is 14th in the country, averaging .89 a game.

Trojans junior Damian Williams has returned two punts for touchdowns, and his 16.3 yards-per-return average is second in the nation. However, Williams will be playing with an injured ankle, so Joe McKnight is expected to handle punt return duties for USC.

Last chance

USC safety Josh Pinkard and center Jeff Byers are sixth-year seniors playing in their fourth USC-UCLA games. Both were sidelined by injuries in 2006, when the Bruins upset the Trojans, so they are 3-0 in the rivalry series.

Pinkard, 23, used to know some of UCLA's players, but not anymore.

"My friends are pretty much all gone -- they're all in the NFL right about now," Pinkard said, chuckling. "They've been in for about three years plus."

Offensive tackle Charles Brown and safety Will Harris, who both originally committed to UCLA, and cornerback Kevin Thomas are fifth-year seniors at USC. The Trojans also have a senior safety in Taylor Mays.

UCLA has five senior starters on defense -- linebackers Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth, end Korey Bosworth, tackle Jerzy Siewierski and cornerback Alterraun Verner.

Verner, wide receiver Terrence Austin and running back Chane Moline all broke in as true freshmen with an upset victory over USC in 2006.

Before that, USC had won seven straight in the series. "But we beat them eight straight once," Korey Bosworth said.

That record UCLA streak was from 1991-98.

USC has won the last two games.

Last chance?

Defensive tackle Price is a junior, but this could be his last rivalry game because the former Crenshaw High star -- who was the subject of an intense recruiting battle between the Bruins and Trojans -- might make himself available for the NFL draft.

USC also has some juniors who could be tempted to jump to the pro ranks: Receiver Williams, defensive end Griffen, tailback McKnight and fullback Stanley Havili.

Watch these guys

This rivalry has had more than a few unsung heroes step into the spotlight and become difference-makers.

With that in mind, keep an eye on UCLA's Locke and USC's Havili.

Locke is among the national leaders in his specialty, but who remembers the punter?

USC might.

Locke is always a key part of UCLA's game plan.

"When you have a young team like we have, you almost do it like you do it in the NFL," said Norm Chow, UCLA's offensive coordinator. "You play for field position and you try to get to the fourth quarter."

Havili missed two games after suffering a shoulder injury against Notre Dame, and he's been barely noticeable in the two games he's been back.

But the junior fullback has popped up with big games before -- he caught four passes for 66 yards against UCLA in 2007 -- and he is always capable.

Havili has 16 receptions this season.

Friends now foes

Barkley and UCLA's Andrew Abbott used to star for Santa Ana Mater Dei High, Barkley on offense, Abbott on defense.

Now Abbott, a cornerback, will be part of several special-situation pass schemes UCLA has designed to stop Barkley and the Trojans.

Only in a crosstown rivalry would so many former high school teammates be on opposite sides of the field. No wonder so many Southland high schools have split allegiances. A few other examples:

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