You know, the USC monopoly on college football in L.A. just might be over.
And Lane Kiffin’s seat as USC’s football coach just got a lot warmer.
UCLA defeated USC, 38-28, to snap a five-game losing streak against the Trojans and, more importantly, give the Bruins a spot in the Pac-12 Conference championship game for the second consecutive year.
Last year, UCLA played Oregon in the game because USC, the South Division winner, had been banned by the NCAA from postseason play.
This season, Coach Jim Mora’s first, the Bruins earned it.
UCLA improved its record to 9-2 overall, 6-2 in Pac-12 play. USC fell to 7-4, 5-4.
Oh what a difference a year makes. In this rivalry, it was a swing of 60 points. USC defeated UCLA, 50-0, last season and two days later Coach Rick Neuheisel was out of a job.
By Monday, Mora may have a contract extension. And now it’s USC’s Kiffin who could be on the way out.
UCLA drew a lot of attention this week when it demanded that USC stop a pregame tradition in which the Trojans drum major strikes his sword at midfield – which, at the Rose Bowl, happens to be where the UCLA logo is.
USC gave in before the game … and then during the game, with UCLA capitalizing on just about every mistake.
Indeed, the Bruins were a little better than the Trojans in just about every way.
Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, outplayed USC senior Matt Barkley. Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown and also ran for two touchdowns. Barkley completed 20 of 38 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions before leaving the game with a couple of minutes to play after a crushing hit by UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA’s career rushing leader, outgained USC’s Curtis McNeal. Franklin had his 18th career 100-yard game, carrying 29 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns. McNeal ran 21 times for 153 yards.
UCLA also blocked a punt, blocked a field goal and recovered a fumble in addition to its two interceptions.
Two of those big defensive plays were turned in by UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, the Pac-12’s leading tackler. Kendricks partially blocked a punt in the third quarter deep in USC territory to set up a touchdown that gave UCLA an 11-point lead. Then, with USC driving early in the fourth quarter, he latched onto a Barkley pass that hit him right in the numbers.
Another key factor for the Bruins: Jeff Locke, whose punting and kicking kept the Trojans in a hole all game. Locke punted six times for a 41.8-yard average and twice put balls inside the USC 20. He also consistently boomed kickoffs out of the end zone, keeping the ball out of the hands of dangerous return man Marqise Lee.
Lee took back one kickoff –- after the outcome had been decided –- for 27 yards.
UCLA plays Stanford next week, but the result of that game won’t change the order of things in the Pac-12 South. USC closes with a chance to spoil Notre Dame’s undefeated season and chance of playing in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
So how’s that? USC, which started the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll, is now reduced to spoiler.