The Pac-12 has one final hope to be represented in the College Football Playoff as the conference hopes to end a five-year drought.
Currently sitting at 9-1 on the year, No. 7 USC almost assuredly needs to finish the season 12-1 and win the Pac-12 Championship Game to be considered by the CFP committee.
The Trojans’ three remaining games will be against ranked opponents as they play No. 16 UCLA, No. 18 Notre Dame and, more than likely, Oregon or Utah, should USC get to the Pac-12 championship game.
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But the Bruins would like nothing more than to spoil USC’s hopes and dreams Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Coming off a wildly disappointing loss to the Arizona Wildcats in Week 11, UCLA’s playoff hopes have been dashed, but ruining their cross-town rivals’ season would go a long way for a fanbase that hasn’t had much to cheer for over the past several seasons.
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For UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the rivalry with the Trojans is personal as the fifth-year senior enters his final chapter of the storied game.
“Obviously, we hate those guys across town. It’s a bitter feeling with those guys,” Thompson-Robinson said Monday. “We want to be even better (than last year). We want to break 60 and all that stuff. We’re trying to improve on everything we’ve done this year and maximize our game that way.”
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Thompson-Robinson had six touchdowns in last year’s 62-33 win over the Trojans but will be facing a stiffer challenge this season.
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USC is led by quarterback Caleb Williams, an Oklahoma transfer, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first year in LA.
“Caleb has played not only in rivalry games but big games with title implications. I like where our guy has been and the battles he has been in,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said.
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USC will need even more from Williams on Saturday after losing running back Travis Dye to a season-ending ankle injury against Colorado in Week 11.
The rivalry between the two schools dates back to 1929, with USC leading the all-time series, 50-33.
The G3 Box News contributed to this report.