It has been a long time since the UCLA vs. USC rivalry has been competitive, and it's so good for the city when it is. For the last decade, Bruins fans donned their blue and gold to root for their team, knowing that they had a snowball's chance in hell of winning. Last year, they lost 50-0.
All throughout the 1990's, UCLA owned the rivalry, winning from 1991-1998. This was the first year in a long time that the tides turned, and it looked like they turned in a definite way.
This win wasn't a fluke. Last year, UCLA football was a joke in Los Angeles, finishing with a 6-8 record and losing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. They fired Rick Neuheisel and brought in Jim Mora with all of his NFL people and knowledge. This has done wonders with UCLA, bringing their record to 9-2 this season.
Lane Kiffin did a good job of steering USC through the sanction years, inheriting a pretty terrible situation. However, something has happened, and Kiffin is no longer able to coach this team to wins. Last season, he led them to a 10-2 record, but this year, they're already 7-4.
What changed in a matter of one season was the coaches. Mora treats the Bruins more like adults in the NFL than college students. He expects a lot of them, and they deliver. Kiffin has fallen into the USC way of doing things. They consistently churn out NFL players, and there's much to be debated about how USC quarterbacks fare in the league, but it seems like the players get too big for their britches.
USC has been the closest thing that Los Angeles has to an NFL team for the better part of the millennium. For that reason, the players get lots of press and interviews, which is great for their NFL futures, but not good for staying focused.
It's easy to get comfortable when you're the best and when you have no competition, which is what USC has enjoyed. However, Mora has come in with this hungry team and been able to coach them up into winners. If anything, USC has the superior quarterback and more elite running backs than UCLA, so really, there's no reason for them to lose other than lack of motivation and hunger, which starts in part, with the coach.
There's no simple answer to this, but a corner has definitely been turned and UCLA is no longer a laughing stock. USC isn't a scrub squad either, by any means! They're still a tough team to beat, but have lost some potency.
This is the perfect storm for a serious LA rivalry like it hasn't been in a very long time.