LOS ANGELES -- At 5:05 a.m. on Saturday, the USC community received an unusual wake-up call. A marching band made like it was halftime at the stadium and cranked out Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" as it walked the campus.
You gotta love college football.
Twelve hours after the pre-sunrise concert, UCLA and USC will meet down the street at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the rivalry's most-hyped matchup in years (8 p.m. ET on ABC). There's a reason for that. Two, actually.
The two quarterbacks are projected as high draft picks and potential franchise players, which explains the anticipated overflow of NFL personnel. At least 20 teams will be represented at the game, including the quarterback-needy New York Jets. There might not be enough room in the press box -- at least 30 scouts and personnel types are expected -- so some might be forced to sit outside, one scout told me.
This is a rare opportunity to see two gifted quarterbacks in the same game. There's no guarantee both non-seniors will enter the draft -- Rosen is more likely than Darnold -- but NFL talent evaluators have to do their homework.
For the Jets and their fans, this happens at the ideal time: the bye week. On some levels, it will be the most compelling game of the year.
What do scouts hope to see?
"Anytime you can watch a game live -- especially quarterback, more than any other position -- it's better because you can get a feel for the game, the momentum, the crowd noise and you can see certain things that you can't see on tape," one AFC scout said Friday. "You can see the player on the sideline, how he acts between series, how he interacts with coaches and teammates. All of that is important."
Darnold and Rosen, hyped as Heisman Trophy candidates at the beginning of the season, haven't been models of consistency. Darnold has been plagued by turnovers -- last week was his first turnover-free game -- but his play has spiked in recent weeks. In the last six games, he has 15 touchdown passes and three interceptions for 11th-ranked USC.
Rosen is a one-man show, carrying a team with a suspect supporting cast. He was on fire in September, rallying UCLA from a 34-point deficit against Texas A&M, but he has only four touchdowns and four interceptions in the last 3½ games. This is a huge game for Rosen, a chance to help his draft stock and one-up his crosstown rival.
This is their first head-to-head matchup, as Rosen was injured last season. It probably will be their last ... until the NFL.
"As evaluators, we're all fans to a certain degree," the scout said. "It's USC and UCLA, so there's a certain mystique. The game will have a lot of juice and you have two top quarterbacks, so that'll make it interesting in itself."