The USC-UCLA game is close at hand, and this year, it's been all about shifting dynamics. You might recall UCLA WR Shaq Evans offering these taunts toward crosstown rivals USC back in September:
Knowing that we're going to beat them again this year ... especially two years ago when they beat us 50-0, we owe them a little bit. This year, we're going to try to embarrass them, honestly.
They're struggling. It's just awesome to see that. I hate them. So I'm just loving it.
It wasn't hard for Evans to draw that conclusion, of course; USC, still coached by Lane Kiffin, had already dropped a 10-7 loss to Washington State, while UCLA had just gone into Lincoln and thrashed Nebraska, 41-21. UCLA looked way, way better than USC.
Funny thing, though; Lane ain't here no more. Or there. Or anywhere. Kiffin was axed unceremoniously at LAX following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State in late September, and from there the Trojans have been resurgent, going 5-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron with wins over the likes of Stanford and Arizona (and Oregon State, back when that mattered).
UCLA, meanwhile, has come back to earth a bit; the Bruins are 8-3 (5-3) on the year, not bad but not in Pac-12 contention. And, um, behind USC, who's at 9-3 and 6-2 (the extra game is from USC's season-opening trip to Hawaii, an artifact of old scheduling rules that means the Trojans will play 13 regular season games this year).
After a season in which UCLA rose as high as No. 9 in the AP poll, the Bruins are currently No. 22 in the BCS, which just so happens to be one measly spot above USC, right there at No. 23.
All of this pretext may mean little. UCLA may still embarrass USC, as Evans predicted. Maybe that hate of his explodes out in a dazzling array of circus catches and touchdowns come Saturday. Maybe.
But as it stands now, the teams look like equals, not like the big and little brother in Evans' imagery. So when Inside USC asked Trojans safety Su'a Cravens about Evans this weekend, his response was appropriately dismissive:
An early response came from Su'a Cravens: "We're not worried about his comments. Everybody hates USC."