Do UCLA players need to be reminded that USC is their rival?

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley scrambles in the Bruins' victory over Colorado on Oct. 25.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

It’s easy to figure out what message UCLA coaches are giving their players. All you have to do is listen.

UCLA’s annual city tête-à-tête with USC is on Nov. 22 and the Bruins have been told to betray no emotions during their bye week. At least that seemed to be the case when the Trojans were mentioned Monday.

Said quarterback Brett Hundley: “We’ll focus on them, but we’re going to focus on ourselves.”


Said linebacker Myles Jack: “It’s good to have a bye week where we can focus on ourselves, take a week off for our bodies and work on our flaws.”

Said defensive back Anthony Jefferson: “It awesome we got that game next week, but right now we’re not focusing too much on the SC game, we’re focusing on us.”

Jefferson took that even further, saying USC, “is a big game, but it’s just another game in our eyes.”

Said Jack: “We haven’t even mention them in our meetings.”

At some point that seems a little far-fetched. This is, after all, one of the more intense rivalries in college football.

That was clear even before the teams played a year ago. Players exchanged angry words on the field two hours before the game, with coaches and security guards stepping in to prevent the situation from escalating.

Jack, a sophomore from Washington, saw the rivalry for the first time in that moment.

“We had meetings and the whole week was geared toward SC,” Jack said. “But I really didn’t get it until the pre-game when everyone was about to fight and stuff. I went, ‘All right, this is kind of serious.’ I saw guys who never get mad, get mad. I understood it then.”


Still, he seems to understand the public message that coaches prefer.

Asked if the coaches have made it clear that players should not be focusing on USC, Jack said, “Yeah, we’re not focused on them this week, we’re focusing on ourselves, fine-tuning things.”

While the Bruins take the week off to focus on themselves, the Trojans play California.

UCLA has won back-to-back games over USC. Hundley could become only the second Bruins starting quarterback to beat the Trojans three times. Cade McNown had four victories in the series in 1995-98.