I realize we’re all still processing a 16-team B1G that stretches from not-really-New-York to all-too-LA, but come 2024, that’s what it’s going to be. So we might as well kill some time by examining past battles (or, in many cases, routs) involving the Trojans and/or Bruins and various B1G teams.
Henceforth, we’ll do one a week, in conjunction with whoever’s week it is for our B1G preview. So, look for a recap of past UW (for Bruins/Trojans fans, that’s University of Wisconsin, now, okay?) matchups with USC and UCLA next week. However, eight teams have already been previewed, so let’s make up for lost time by addressing half of them today.
0-4 vs. USC
The only game anybody could possibly care about was the 1968 Rose Bowl when USC defeated Indiana 14-3. That was Indiana’s only Rose Bowl appearance, they “earned” their bid by winning a three-way tiebreaker, and USC won the national title that year, so maybe the Hoosiers were lucky it was as close as it was.
The most recent matchup was a 28-7 Trojan win in 1982. Suffice it to say that, unsurprisingly, 1) there’s not much history here, and 2) USC has dominated.
0-0 vs. UCLA
That’s right, the Hoosiers and Bruins have never met on the gridiron. Basketball is a different story as they’ve split 12 matchups, but even there, they’ve only played once in the last 30 years, a 54-49 UCLA win in the 2007 NCAA tournament.
0-5 vs. USC
The only matchup in the last fifty years is the one you all know: the 41-32 Trojan triumph in the 1996 Rose Bowl. If you’re too young to actually remember this game, it was a beaut. USC jumped out to leads of 24-7 and 31-19, before Northwestern rallied to a 32-31 lead. Wildcats fans are happy to remember the surprise onside kick Gary Barnett ordered up in the third quarter, but are probably still yelling about the Brian Musso fumble that wasn’t really a fumble that got run back for a Trojan TD. And Keyshawn Johnson’s 12 reception, 216 yard performance is the stuff of nasty flashbacks.
3-3 vs. UCLA
The three Wildcat wins were all prior to 1950, and the only game since 1970 was the 2005 Sun Bowl when a frankly outmatched Wildcat squad (7-4 on the year) actually jumped out to a 22-0 lead on the 9-2 Bruins behind two pick sixes before seeing the lead evaporate even before halftime. Brett Basanez attempted 70 passes, but UCLA ran all over the Wildcat D. Most humorously, UCLA ran back not one, but two, onside kicks for TDs in the last 2:30 of the game.
0-4-1 vs. USC
Two legendary (at least at one point) programs without much history between them. Still, for Nebraska, the tie was as good as a win since it was the only blemish on their 1970 record and didn’t prevent them from winning the AP national title that year.
More recently, USC won a home-and-home in 2006 and 2007, taking each matchup by 18 points, and winning the only bowl showdown between the two: a 45-42 victory in the 2014 Holiday Bowl. Nebraska played hard under interim coach Barney Cotton (Bo Pelini had been relieved of his duties despite going 9-3 and beating Iowa in his final game; things were handled professionally on all sides, don’t you worry) as the Huskers rallied from a 45-27 deficit, but they ran out of time.
7-6 vs. UCLA
Ah, our first quasi-rivalry. These two have played semi-regularly over the last few decades (11 of the matchups have been in the last 50 years). After spotting UCLA a 3-0 series lead, Nebraska won in 1973 and then took 5 of 6 in the 80s/90s. That said, the most notable matchup was the Bruin victory, a 41-28 upset in a top 5 showdown in 1988. UCLA moved at will behind an outstanding passing day from Troy Aikman. UCLA would eventually reach #1 that year before dropping a couple of games late. UCLA took both matchups in a 2012-2013 home-and-home, but the Huskers did win the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl 37-29 in the only postseason matchup between the two. Embarrassingly for UCLA, Nebraska entered the game 5-7, getting the bid only because of their APR score. After spotting the Bruins a 21-7 lead, Nebraska tore off 30 straight points and held on for the win.
2-11 vs. USC
If you’ve done the math, you know that USC is a cumulative 24-2-1 vs. the four B1G schools covered today. Great. One of Illinois’s wins came in 1935, so I don’t have much to say about that. The other was in 1989, a Thursday night season-opener where Illinois erased a 13-0 deficit behind two late TDs from Jeff George to upset #5 USC in the Coliseum. Since then it was USC 55-3 in 1996 and 49-17 in the 2008 Rose Bowl (and that score flatters Illinois). Ugh.
6-6 vs. UCLA
Illinois started off 3-0 in this series, including a 45-14 rout in the 1947 Rose Bowl, the first contractually scheduled matchup of B1G and Pac champs. Illinois pushed the lead to 5-2 before UCLA obliterated the 10-1 Illini 45-9 in the 1984 Rose Bowl. After that, there were two different 6-3 Bruin wins, one in the 1991 Sun Bowl, the other in a 2003 regular season game. At that point, these two should have been legally prohibited from playing each other. However, UCLA won 35-17 in Champaign in 2004 to finish off the home-and-home, and Illinois evened things up with a 20-14 victory in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
While I don’t have the time, this 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl really deserves a longform article. The 2011 Fighting Illini started 6-0 before losing their last six regular season games. And the 2011 Bruins entered the bowl at 6-7 AND as Pac 12 South champions, owing to USC—who hammered UCLA 50-0—being on probation. UCLA actually had a negative SRS and was outscored by over 100 points on the season. But that banner will fly forever. The 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is truly one of the greatest sporting events in the history of our great nation.
HWAHSQB: I was only a decade or so away from caring about PSU like I do about the the rest of you assholes so I’ll probably just about give a shit about USC/UCLA on my deathbed.
However, I am supposed to say something about these teams and the first thing that comes to my head is Holy Hell! Indinia, N’ern, and Nebarksa, you guys suck! At least Illinois has two wins against the Trojans, which is two more than you losers. Back to USC, Kind of.. that Rose Bowl was competitive for 20 minutes. It was 17-7 and Illinois had the ball on the USC 4 yard line about to make it a one score game. Then Illinois fumbled right into the hands of USC. Two plays later Joe McKnight dropped a lateral, kicked the ball forward 20 yards and picked it up for an 80 yard TD. After that, it got ugly, but for a shining moment, Illinois was competitive with the NFL team from LA on their home field.
As far as UCLA, a longform article won’t do the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl credit. It needs a six part documentary or an 80 page doctoral thesis. That game was FIRE! Or at least, it was the only bowl game to feature two teams who had BOTH FIRED THEIR COACHES!! That is too funny. It is the second most hilariously sad game I watched in 40 years of watching mostly sad Illinois football. Kind of.. I bet you can guess the saddest game. 1995 Wiscy-Illinois.