A Pac-12 Conference football title could be on the line Saturday when UCLA and USC play at the Rose Bowl.
The Pac-12 rushing title, that is.
The Trojans’ Javorius “Buck” Allen averages 118.4 yards per game to lead the conference. He received a letter from the Heisman Trophy Trust last week, informing him that he was officially a potential candidate for the annual award.
At UCLA, Paul Perkins has yet to receive such a love letter. He ranks second in the conference, averaging 117.2 yards per game. He also averages 6.2 yards per carry, and Allen averages 5.5.
Candidate or not, Perkins could have as much of an effect on the game as Allen.
“We went into this season, and we went into last season, thinking that we have to do it by committee,” Coach Jim Mora said. “The way Paul has emerged has given us one guy that we can really count on week in and week out.”
Perkins has 1,172 yards this season, with four 100-yard games. Allen has 1,184 yards, with eight 100-yard games.
Allen, though, got the letter.
“That’s OK, Paul has to do it longer,” Mora said. “Buck is a difference maker. Paul is working that way. If he continues to play the way he has, in a year or two, he’ll be getting that letter.”
Perkins is uncomfortable talking about individual goals. He constantly points to the UCLA offensive line as the source of his success.
He said his focus this week, as usual, is on helping the team. However, he also said that winning the rushing title “would be a great honor for me and the offensive line. It would speak volumes about the team and how we run the ball.”
The run game is important to both offenses.
“How can you not respect what Buck is doing over there?” Mora said of USC’s Allen. “How can you not respect what Paul is doing for us?”
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack said the Bruins have a plan for Allen.
“We get a hold of him, wrap him up and gang tackle,” Jack said.
Mora’s has a standing order this week for the Bruins to be careful with comments.
“I just think it’s important to follow our mantra and don’t listen to noise and control what we control,” Mora said.
What he doesn’t control is alumni.
Wayne Cook, UCLA’s starting quarterback in 1993 and 1994, has strong opinions about USC and is willing to share them.
Cook, now a sideline reporter for UCLA radio broadcasts, said, “I’ve listen to them talk, how they dominated the series. Go back and look at the 1980s and 1990s. I’m sure UCLA won both decades. That’s two decades.”
UCLA had a 5-4-1 record against USC in the 1980s and an 8-2 record in the 1990s. As for USC’s dominance under then-coach Pete Carroll in the 2000s, Cook has an explanation.
“The Carroll years are tainted,” Cook said. “They even had to vacate a couple wins. I know they had decades where they dominated, if you go back far enough. But I don’t see overall USC dominance.”
USC leads the football series between the schools with 44 victories, 30 losses and seven ties, not counting victories in 2004 and 2005 that were vacated because of NCAA violations.
Cook beat USC twice as a starter.
UCLA fullback Nate Iese (shoulder) and running back Nate Starks (ankle) went through a full practice Tuesday. Both were limited to individual work last week.
Mora will try to become the second UCLA coach to win his first three USC games. Bob Toledo won his first three, from 1996 to 1998.