As tensions run high leading into the annual meeting between USC and UCLA, The Times' college football writers took a look at the issues and match-ups surrounding the game.
Is Trojans Coach Lane Kiffin on the hot seat? Will it be a successful season for the Bruins if they fail to win on Saturday at the Rose Bowl? Is it really a big deal if Tommy Trojan or the USC Marching Band's drum major plants a sword in the Bruins logo?
USC reporter Gary Klein says that it's difficult to say what will happen with Kiffin and his Trojans, who have a 7-3 record. "They could end up back in the Pac-12 championship game with another chance at Oregon," adding the season "really could go two ways."
National columnist Chris Dufresne pointed out that "the expectations were so high that there was nowhere to go but down" for the Trojans, who were ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
As for the entire sword-stabbing thing, UCLA reporter Chris Foster said that "it makes UCLA look bad, like whiners. Don't worry about that stuff. Go win the game."
UCLA Coach Jim Mora, who has guided the Bruins to an 8-2 record in his first season, can count this year as a success regardless of how the game turns out Saturday. The winner does advance to the Pac-12 title game as the South Division champion.
"Even if they lose Saturday -- and it looks like a toss-up -- then they get a shot at Stanford," said Foster, who points out a 10-win season is not out of the question.
The group then broke down some match-ups, including a look at quarterbacks Matt Barkley of USC and Brett Hundley of UCLA.
Who will win the contest? Not too surprisingly, Klein took USC "in a close game," Foster predicted a UCLA victory and Dufresne cast a tiebreaker for the Trojans.
"That talent is still there at USC. UCLA can't answer that firepower," Dufresne said.