When USC first played UCLA in 1929, a Los Angeles Times sportswriter wrote, In years to come, this game will probably be one of the football spectacles of the West. Today, it has morphed into something much bigger and more significant than a regional rivalry. It stands as one of college footballs most prestigious events and popular regular season games.
WATCH: Saturday Traditions: Rivals Unite- USC vs UCLA
Saturday Traditions: Rivals Unite- USC vs UCLA
During the late 1930s, after being pummeled by the Trojans regularly in the series initial stages, UCLA began to assert itself as a rising football power. One of the players who was responsible for the Bruins gaining credibility on the gridiron was none other than Jackie Robinson, a phenomenal athlete who would go on to leave his mark on history as a professional baseball player when he integrated the major leagues.
By the 1950s, UCLA was firmly established as one of the best teams in America, and they won the schools only national championship in 1954. Their Hall of Fame coach back then, Red Saunders, was quoted as saying, Beating ‘SC is not a matter of life or death, it’s more important than that.
The 1967 game was referred to as The Game of the Century at the time, and is still considered one of the most historically significant football games of the 20th Century. USC emerged victorious, 21-20, thanks to a remarkable performance by O.J. Simpson, and they went on to capture the national championship.
Among its many other notable games, the 1988 tilt, a 31-22 Bruins win, is still fondly recalled as it featured the two top quarterbacks in the country in Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete.
The 2005 game is also among the most memorable, and not because the game was closely contested. USC won handily by a lopsided score of 66-19, but it still stands out due to the sheer excellence and overall dominance of that Trojan squad, which featured not one but two Heisman Trophy winners in quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush.
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The schools are both in the city of Los Angeles and their respective campuses sit only 12 miles apart from one another. During the week prior to the game, each campus hosts an array of rivalry week activities that include parades, bonfires, rallies and live entertainment.
They both shared Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as their home stadium until UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982. The victor is awarded The Victory Bell, a 295-pound brass bell that originally rang atop a Southern Pacific Railroad locomotive.
USC won that first game that was played in 1929 by a score of 76-0, and they lead the overall series with 48 victories. UCLA has won 31 times and there have been seven ties. UCLA won eight straight games from 1991 to 1998. USC’s longest streak was seven wins in a row from 1999 to 2005.
Each school protects their mascots during rivalry week. Bruin the Bear is placed in a $5,000 box and is guarded by the Bruin Bear Security force. Tommy Trojan is protected by the Trojan Knights and is bubble wrapped and duct taped.
When it comes to capturing the pageantry, essence and glory of a college football Saturday, its pretty difficult to top USC vs UCLA.