LOS ANGELES -- Emotions are a big part of the annual crosstown showdown between the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans, and this year will be no exception as the teams battle for city supremacy as well as a spot in the Pac-12 Conference title game.
But as the two most penalized teams in the nation, these squads will have to make sure that emotion doesn't get out of control. UCLA has been penalized a nation-leading 92 times and USC is right behind with 88. And in a game that almost always carries an elevated dimension of taunting and trash talking, flags could be an area of concern.
"It's going to be emotional," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "You've got to capture that emotion because you want to have that emotion, but you've got to control it. The last thing that I want is chippiness on the field because I think it takes away from the concentration that I think is necessary to perform a particular play."
Of UCLA's 92 penalties, 20 have been for personal fouls. The Bruins have drawn at least two personal fouls in seven of their 10 games this season, including a season-high four last week at Washington State. USC has drawn 18 personal fouls, including six in an Oct. 20 loss to Arizona, but hasn't had a personal foul the last two weeks.
"You're going to have a lot of emotions going crazy, but you have to be mature," UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria said. "You have to understand what the task at hand is and you have to keep going forward and play it like every other game."
After the Arizona game, in which USC was flagged 13 times for 117 yards, the Trojans led the nation in penalties. But they have cut down the last two weeks, drawing only seven penalties for 55 yards against Oregon and Arizona State. The Bruins are hoping for a similar return to discipline after drawing 12 penalties for 126 yards against Washington State last week.
"The chippiness is something that we'll try at all costs to avoid," Mora said. "And I watched USC on film and I think they play with a lot of class and a lot of spirit as well. I just don't think it's going to be an issue this week. I don't think it's going to drop to that level."
Mora hinted that things did drop a level against the Cougars and that helped explain the season high in personal fouls. He also said it was good preparation for Saturday's game against USC.
"There were some things going on out there that were pretty interesting," Mora said. "But I think it was really important for us to go through that because it teaches us the importance of playing through it and not letting it be a distraction. So sometimes things like that, especially when you get away with a win, can help you grow emotionally."