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Who will win USC and UCLA’s final Pac-12 battle?

USC and UCLA will take the field at the Coliseum on Saturday for their final regular season game in the Pac-12.

LOS ANGELES — This Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC (7-4) will face UCLA (6-4) and try to finish off their regular season with a win over their bitter enemies. The Trojans and Bruins, each out of conference championship contention, will instead focus their full attention on beating their crosstown foes in one final hurrah in the Pac-12 conference.

The Trojans lead the all-time series between the two teams 50-33-7, with their first bout coming in 1929. However, with UCLA and USC moving to the Big 10 Conference next season, this weekend’s game will mark the final matchup for one of the most intense rivalries in all of college sports in the Pac-12, a conference the two teams have battled for supremacy over for a century.

USC comes into the game after a disappointing stretch, losing four of their last five games, with the only win being a 1-point victory over the undermatched California Golden Bears. They return home this week after a 36-27 loss to #6 Oregon last week, a game where they were torched by Oregon QB Bo Nix, who threw for 412 yards and four touchdowns. 

UCLA has also had quite a disappointing season, losing their last two matchups to #19 University of Arizona and unranked Arizona State. Their most recent loss against Arizona State at home was especially damning, a game in which they only managed to score 7 points against a soft ASU defensive front.

The story of this game will be in the trenches. UCLA comes into this week with the 13th best rushing offense in the nation, rushing for over 200 yards a game. This has been a well-chronicled issue for the Trojans, who give up the 16th most rushing yards to opposing offenses. This UCLA matchup is also only two weeks removed from the Trojans’ defense giving up 256 yards and 4 touchdowns to Washington running back Dillon Johnson, which was enough to get defensive coordinator Alex Grinch fired the following day.

Last season’s edition of this rivalry was an instant classic, with the Trojans winning a 48-45 shootout on a game-winning Korey Foreman interception in the final two minutes. Caleb Williams torched the Bruins for 503 total yards and three touchdowns last season, and effectively locked up his Heisman Trophy. However, an improved UCLA defense ranked 9th in the nation in points allowed will look to give the high-powered USC offense more trouble than last season and come out with a gritty win.

The Trojans come into this matchup favored by a touchdown, with most betting sites setting the line at 6.5 in favor of USC, with the line for total points being set at 65.5. USC comes into the game 3-8 against the spread, and nine of their 11 games have gone over the point total.

In addition to being USC’s final game in the Pac-12 conference after 101 years, this game may also be 2023 Heisman winner Caleb Williams’ last in a Trojans jersey. The projected #1 overall pick in next year’s draft may very likely sit out USC’s bowl game to avoid risking injury before the draft process, and this may be his final game in the Los Angeles Coliseum as well. Though Williams has been non-committal about declaring for the draft to this point, it is very likely he will be an NFL quarterback next season and never play another college game after this one against UCLA.

The Men of Troy have failed to meet expectations this season, being ranked #6 in college football in the preseason with College Football Playoff hopes, and now out of contention for the Pac-12 championship trying to salvage their year. Fans should expect them to come out with a chip on their shoulder against their hated rivals and look to finish their regular season on a high note and make a respectable bowl game. Either way, this should be a heated matchup with many interesting storylines that will be exciting for both Trojans and Bruins fans alike.