The USC Trojans won the 2004 national championship (yeah, I know they got stripped of the title but they still won the game) and played in the 2006 Rose Bowl for the 2005 season’s BCS national championship. That clash with Texas was one of the best games I’ve ever seen. In 2006, the Trojans appeared headed to yet another national championship game: They were 10-1 and had just beaten three straight ranked opponents.
The No. 2-ranked Trojans played UCLA in the Rose Bowl stadium with everything on the line for the men of Troy.
The UCLA Bruins had struggled for much of 2006. They came into the game with a 6-5 record but had endured a four-game losing streak in which they lost to three ranked teams (Notre Dame, Oregon and Cal) and also fell to Washington State.
The Trojans came into the game as a 26-point favorite and seemed like they were simply in a different class. This was supposed to be an easy one for the Trojans.
Let’s not forget that USC had won seven straight games in this rivalry. When a team beats you three or four straight times… that gets in your head. When somebody beats you seven straight times, we are getting into “boogeyman” territory. To say that nobody on this UCLA team knew what it felt like to beat USC would be an understatement.
The previous year, the Trojans put 66 on the Bruins defense. SIXTY SIX!
So what happened on December 2, 2006? Take a look:
USC looked like it was headed for a last-minute comeback when UCLA’s Eric McNeal stole the show:
This game is important not just in the scheme of the UCLA-USC rivalry, but as an important lesson to learn with rivalry week on its way. Next week, teams such as Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State will go into their rivalry games as big favorites. As this game shows, they need to keep an eye on the past or they might just look past a game they think is in the bag, and lose out on the chance of a lifetime.