CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

What is a loyal USC football fan to do?

Even if Trojans think they can do better than Ed Orgeron, it will be tough to let him go if he beats UCLA

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Rivalry week should be cutthroat, not complicated. "Yeah, buts" have no place in this basic tenet of mutual disdain.

One does not hesitate when a frat brother says, "We're going to paint their cow blue and green. You in?"

You are always in. There is no room in your head for crazy talk: "Should I root against …us?"

Rivalries are supposed to be irrevocable blood oaths.

Last summer, Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer insisted NFL scouts attending a Buckeyes practice change shirts because they were blue — Michigan's colors. At Ohio State, you're not even supposed to say "Michigan." It's referred to as "That School Up North."

Meyer, raised in scarlet and gray pajamas growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, was playfully reprimanded this week when he said, "I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age."

"You said 'Michigan,'" he was told. "Wow," Meyer replied. "Apologize."

In 1982, a few days after California defeated Stanford on a last-second kickoff return that is debated to this day, staffers of Stanford's student newspaper distributed fake copies of Berkeley's student newspaper all over campus.

The headline of the Daily Californian proclaimed "NCAA Awards Big Game to Stanford." The story explained how the NCAA had reverted the 25-20 final to 20-19. There was a fake sidebar about Cal's coach: "Decision stuns Joe Kapp."

Yale students, posing as a fictitious "Harvard Pep Squad," once distributed flash cards in the Harvard section that spelled out "We Suck."

Rivalries, at their worst, bring out demented Alabama fans such as Harvey Updyke, who poisoned Auburn's iconic oak trees at Toomer's Corner.

It's Rivalry Week in college football, but something in our crosstown square just doesn't feel right.

The potential for conflicted feelings was set in motion the moment USC Athletic Director Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin in the wee hours of Sept. 29 following a crushing defeat at Arizona State.

The decision was deemed necessary by the Trojans fan base, yet it left open the chance for what's happening now.

Haden did the right thing in naming Ed Orgeron as interim head coach, but Orgeron's success has twisted USC faithful with a blasphemous thought: Is it better if we lose to UCLA?

Victory would almost force Haden to hire Orgeron for the long term. Orgeron is building momentum you can't manufacture. He is openly campaigning for the job and has the players on his side. He is plying them with hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and, yes, even cookies.

Victory means USC would have gone undefeated in Orgeron-led Pac-12 Conference games.

The voice in USC's left ear is whispering Orgeron would deserve the job; the right ear is hearing how a win over UCLA is the last thing USC needs.

Victory would force Haden to act on sentiment and emotion instead of dispassionate reason. Victory would deny Haden the chance to make a signature, big-name hire that could define the program for years.

There is a reason why Nick Saban and Meyer make more money than everyone else: They're better.

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