In 1988, the narrative for much of the season focused on Los Angeles. After UCLA whipped No. 2 Nebraska by 13 and USC throttled No. 3 Oklahoma by 16, the Bruins and Trojans were on a collision course. Only a slip-up by UCLA at home to Washington State (coached by Dennis Erickson, who would take the Miami job) kept USC-UCLA from being a battle of unbeatens.
They had two of the best quarterbacks in the country. UCLA was led by Oklahoma transfer Troy Aikman, who won the Davey O’Brien Award and would be the first pick in the NFL draft. USC’s was Rodney Peete, who won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and would have a long NFL career. Peete and Aikman finished second and third in Heisman voting, respectively, beaten out by Barry Sanders.
Almost three decades later, we might be treated to a USC-UCLA repeat.
USC will be preseason top five, thanks in no small part to Sam Darnold, who ended 2016 on fire and enters on every preseason All-America list. If USC can replace its top two receivers and three offensive linemen, the Trojans will contend.
UCLA has lower expectations, but Josh Rosen is also one of the best. He was a five-star recruit who performed well as a freshman and saw his 2016 derailed by injuries and a poor coordinator hire. The Bruins need to find their running game, but USC and UCLA could meet with a Heisman, division title, playoff implications, and the draft at stake.
Are there other instances of what we’ll call the Aikman-Peete Phenomenon, when two arch-rivals have QBs considered true elites by either the NFL or by the rest of college football?
Let’s start with 1980 and find some examples.
Oliver Luck (West Virginia) and Dan Marino (Pitt) in 1981
Before becoming an athletic director and member of the Playoff committee, Luck was an outstanding QB. He was as a second round pick of the Oilers.
Marino had a somewhat more successful NFL career, throwing for over 61,000 yards and 420 touchdowns.
Both regressed in their senior seasons, with Marino dropping from 6.8 adjusted yards per attempt to 4.6, while Luck dropped from 6.7 to 5.3. Their biggest meeting came during Luck’s senior swoon and Marino’s junior surge. 4-0 Pitt beat 4-0 West Virginia, 17-0. Marino was hurt, so Jackie Sherrill deployed a game plan that he described as “the most conservative I have ever played.”
Luck’s son would have more success in rivalry games.
Source: SB Nation