This is the biggest week of the season for the UCLA football team — USC week.
“How much the UCLA-Southern Cal game changes things is amazing,” Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley said. “To our fans, this game every year is it. We could do nothing all year and win this game and it would still be a successful season to them.”
Yet, this has become less of a 365-day rivalry (366 in leap years) since Jim Mora became UCLA’s coach.
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA’s previous coach, preached that USC was a model to emulate, a response he gave nearly every time he was asked about the rivalry. That trapping has been avoided by Mora, who has called USC his team’s biggest game, but added, “We’ll worry about USC the week we play them.”
That, Hundley said, is the proper focus.
“When I first got here, the aura may have been that the whole town was SC,” Hundley said. “Now it’s another game, a big game, but another game, no disrespect to USC.”
The Bruins, though, have a weekly agenda.
“The change is knowing now we’re the team in L.A.,” Hundley said. “We’re not focused on outside opponents all the time unless we’re playing them that week. It’s, ‘Let’s handle this team this week and that game will get here soon enough.’ ”
Now, it’s here.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” Hundley said. “We’re both right on the edge of where we want to be.”
USC won 12 of 13 games in the series from 1999 to 2011, going to five Rose Bowl games in that span.
UCLA won last season, 38-28.
“They had a long history,” UCLA cornerback Ishmael Adams said. “I remember watching those games as a kid and, at one point, I thought the Rose Bowl was USC’s home field. It was a joy to be on the other side.”
Adams gives a boost to the offense
Adams is the latest defensive player to spark the offense.
He returned kicks for the first time in his college career against Arizona State on Saturday, and had 58- and 69-yard kickoff returns along with a 49-yard punt return. Those were set-up moments for all 13 of UCLA’s points in the first half.
“I think I did a pretty good job, but I had great blocking down field,” Adams said.
Adams volunteered for the duty because Steven Manfro (ankle) and Devin Fuller (hamstring) were out because of injuries.
UCLA has not won at the Coliseum since 1997, a seven-game losing streak. Hundley was 5.
“It’s always funny to go into a game and hear those things,” Hundley said. “It’s like when we went to Utah and we hadn’t scored [a touchdown] there in years, or when we went into Nebraska, where we haven’t won in a long time.”
UCLA scored four touchdowns in a 34-27 victory over Utah in October. The Bruins beat Nebraska, 42-21, in September. Hundley left out Arizona, where UCLA had not won since 2003 before getting a 31-26 victory this month.