With a chance to take the Pac-12's South Division and play in the conference title game with a win over its cross-town rival, USC came out looking flat and disinterested.
That probably shouldn't surprise anyone by now, because that's how USC has looked most of this season.
When USC got back in the game, despite a 24-0 deficit in the first half, and had a chance to win if it got the ball back in the fourth quarter, USC's defense provided no resistance to UCLA.
Again, this shouldn't surprise you. USC's defense has been a major disappointment all year.
UCLA pounded USC, winning 38-28. There's no bragging rights for USC in Los Angeles this offseason. A Trojans team with a quarterback and a couple receivers all expected to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft over the next couple years could not even win its division. That division winner is UCLA, who will play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for a spot in the Rose Bowl and has earned every bit of trash talk it can dispense to USC this offseason.
UCLA came out looking prepared, focused and excited. Jim Mora has done a heck of a job transforming the Bruins. The signature play of the first half was when UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin wiggled free of some bored Trojans defenders on third and 14 and somehow got a first down. Franklin, and UCLA, wanted it more. A touchdown on that drive made the score 24-0.
USC can turn it on when it wants, and it woke up for a while after it fell behind 24-0. Despite Matt Barkley's 15th interception of the season — yes, 15 interceptions with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to throw to — the Trojans pulled within 3 points in the fourth quarter. Then UCLA simply drove down and scored to take a 38-28 lead.
To add to the Trojans' problems, Barkley was hit hard on a sack and was knocked out of the game after UCLA's final touchdown. Then at the end of that drive, USC got a field goal blocked. That's what happens to poorly coached teams. On Twitter, @HeismanPundit pointed out that USC is the first preseason No. 1 team to lose four games since Auburn in 1984.
The best team in Los Angeles is clearly UCLA. Mora's first year has been a smashing success, no matter what happens in the conference title game. UCLA doesn't have the same upper-level talent USC does, but the Bruins do have some very good football players. And when you have such a significant coaching edge, that can make a huge difference.
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