LOS ANGELES – Although the result wasn’t the one they were looking for, USC didn’t have any problem getting up for UCLA.
The buildup contributes to that. They don’t have Conquest every week on the USC campus, nor do they have a bonfire each week on the UCLA campus. Those traditions are saved for USC-UCLA rivalry week.
Players from both sides of the crosstown rivalry know each other as well as their families. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said that aspect alone makes the UCLA game the toughest on the schedule.
Not liking UCLA comes easy to Trojans, making it a natural rival.
Realizing Notre Dame is a rival comes after some coaxing.
This isn’t your father’s rivalry.
“We try to work on that,” Kiffin said of getting his players to realize the significance of the rivalry with Notre Dame. “I don’t think that that’s natural to them. It is what it is. It’s what we live in nowadays. You’re dealing with 17 to 21-year old kids and for whatever reason they don’t come in here understanding that so we’re working on that.”
T.J. McDonald is one of the rare Trojans that came into the school knowing what the rivalry means and importance of it.
For all that his father, Tim, accomplished as a Trojan, he never beat Notre Dame. It’s still a big game for him as well as the other Trojan alums.
“This is a huge rivalry,” T.J. said. “He definitely has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to this rivalry. He just tells me it’s a big game all of the Trojan family is watching. Everybody wants to see how the Trojans are going to play, how they’re going to respond from last week and you just got to be able to go out there and make a statement.”
This generation grew up being surrounded by Trojan dominance over Notre Dame and will likely find it hard to believe the Irish actually hold a 43-35-5 advantage in the all-time series.
The Notre Dame this group of players grew up watching is nothing like the No. 1 team that will stroll into the Coliseum on Saturday. This is the first time the Irish have held such a ranking since 1993.
So, yes, when it comes to thinking about the Irish, viewing them as a top flight program wasn’t really observed among this group of players.
“I’m sure when these kids grew up with the eight straight (USC wins) so they weren’t watching the same type of games that 20 years ago kids were watching,” Kiffin said.
As he works on his players understanding the significance of the rivalry, the players, if nothing else realize who they’re going up against. The No. 1 team in the nation is coming into the Coliseum on Saturday. That needs no coaxing.