Each year, regardless of a team’s performance in-conference or out, football fans of all stripes and colors certainly look forward to their own Rivalry Week.
For many teams, it’s not what it used to be, of course. Rivalry Week used to be the last game of the season. It used to be the greatest high or the lowest low to go out as a victor or loser on game 12. These games often carried (and still do) a great deal of weight: They could crush a team’s dreams of an invitation to a highly visible bowl game or they could prove that team more than deserved an invite.
During my tenure as a USC fan, I’ve experienced the emotions from both extreme outcomes. I’ve seen our boys’ hopes and dreams dashed by the horror of a 13-9 loss to our rival. I’ve also seen us run past UCLA like Marqise Lee against a nine-year-old girl. (No offense, girls. But you know that he’d destroy us in a race…especially if we were nine.)
Rivalry Week in the last few seasons hasn’t had the same import. It’s no longer the last game for USC and UCLA fans. And that’s unfortunate. What is fortunate, however, is that USC does have another great rivalry game to end it all, but it’s not the same.
What is the same is the pressure to win. And this year, these last two rivals are no joke. In the past, I’ve never worried about our game versus Notre Dame, and the only worry I ever had about UCLA was over the unpredictable variable that is a rivalry. The team itself (again, only in my tenure) wasn’t a threat.
This year, the game holds more weight than the Victory Bell for a team that has had its fair share of trials over deeds done by past members. For a quarterback who set a public example of loyalty and devotion to a team and not to his individual future ambitions. And to the fans who have so desperately wanted a thirteenth game the last few years.
This Saturday, I’m pulling a stereotypical football coachism and saying that “we take things one game at a time.” While we technically get two rivalry weeks in a row, this Saturday is the rivalry week Bruins and Trojans have been waiting for. The reasons are different, but the hopes are the same–PAC12 South Division Champions–and a possible rematch with the ever-swift Oregon Ducks (for us).
More to come about 50-yard-line sword swinging controversies and our schools’ history of messing with one another. For now, I’m reveling in the thought a very worthy rivalry.