Whenever great college football rivalries come up in conversation, the obvious ones always get mentioned first.
Auburn-Alabama. Texas-Oklahoma. Michigan-Ohio State.
Noticeably absent from those conversations are any Pac-12 rivalries. Cal-Stanford or Washington-Washington State mean a lot to some people, but when's the last times those games meant anything to the average college football fan? There have been spots where west coast rivalries had the nation's attention, but it's been awhile since any one of them have kept anyone's attention for multiple years.
Then there's USC-UCLA. There have been plenty of massive games between the two in the past, but the rivalry has never really been what it was in recent years. There's been a cycle of up and down between the two programs that hasn't allowed anyone other than people in the region to care about the game.
UCLA won eight games in a row in the 90s while the Trojans were down as a program. When Pete Carroll came in and the Trojans had their run, UCLA had sunk back down. Even with the Jim Mora coming in and revitalizing the Bruins and getting three straight wins over the Trojans, those victories have been over scholarship depleted teams. Neither program has been good at the same time for a long time and that's why not many people outside of LA have cared about the game too much.
This could be a year to change that though as both programs are on the rise. The Trojans are finally going to have some depth to go along with their talent and are bringing in a loaded recruiting class. The Bruins also are building off of three good seasons to try and take that next step as a program. They are bringing in a lot blue chip talent as well, including the top quarterback (Josh Rosen) and top running back (Soso Jamabo) in the nation.
One big thing that has prevented the Bruins from taking that next step is that USC, even with their lack of scholarship numbers, still has dominated them in recruiting the top local talent. The Bruins wanted 5 star recruits like Iman Marshall, Rasheem Green, and John Houston. Those recruits all wanted to go to USC.
But maybe the winds are changing. UCLA has won recently on the field and they have scored some wins over USC in recruiting recently.
The Bruins grabbed a commitment from one of the top linebacker recruits in the nation last night when Lokeni Toailoa committed to them over the Trojans. They also have already won battles for Toailoa's Ground Zero teammates 4 star inside linebacker Krys Barnes and 5 star edge rusher Breland Brandt. All three of these recruits would have seemed destined to be Trojans in the past. Maybe they were influenced by USC's awesome haul of linebackers in the previous class, but that has never stopped the Trojans from reloading at a position the next year in recruiting before.
Mora and his staff have appeared to have done well to establish a pipeline from the talented group of players from Ground Zero, also adding a commitment from slot receiver Demetric Felton last night. Of course, it's not as simple as a funnelling of prospects to Westwood though. Another Ground Zero kid, big time 2017 running back Stephen Carr, also committed last night, but to USC. He already had offers from both LA schools.
Last night's commitment announcements from the Ground Zero recruits could mean a couple of things. One, the Toailoa commitment signals that this isn't just USC's town anymore when it comes to landing the top recruits in southern California. Two, the Carr commitment signals that USC isn't going anywhere just yet either.
To me, it just shows that both programs are rising and that means this could actually turn into a rivalry that everyone starts to care about again.
The rivalry has already started to heat up when it comes to recruiting. There is a still a really long way to go in the 2016 cycle and USC looks to be in a very strong position with most of the elite talent that is uncommitted from southern California. They could very well pull off a sweep with highly ranked recruits like Dylan Crawford, Tyler Vaughns, Javon McKinley, and Trevon Sidney. If that happens, then the recruiting narrative will go back to what it was.
Like I said though, there is a long way to in this cycle. The rivalry off the field in recruiting should keep heating up and the battle for prospects by the LA schools is only going to become more intense.