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UCLA and USC are taking extra-early pains, this year, to avoid attacks on their inanimate war heros back at home camp.

A full two weeks before their annual opening football game on November 26 — a tradition known to inspire mischief and brawl in the meekest of library nerds — both campuses are whipping out their finest shieldry.

A successful hit on Bruin Bear or Tommy Trojan, after all…

… is like flicking a Kingpiece off the chess board. Doesn't really matter who wins the football game at that point; all devolves into freestyle battle of the most ridiculous order.

To name a few stunts of years past: UCLA's letters on USC's practice field. Red paint in the UCLA fountain. Blue paint on Tommy Trojan. 20,000 red-and-gold crickets in the UCLA library. Blue-and-gold flagpoles in the USC stadium parking lot. (We're beginning to see a pattern here.)

Most costly of the bunch, though, was an epic $20,000 act of vandalism upon the Bruin in 2009 — a coat of many USC colors that proved a gargantuan bitch to scrub off.

Operation Hibernation, right, would ultimately fail.; Credit: trojanempire.wordpress.com circa 2009

Operation Hibernation, right, would ultimately fail.; Credit: trojanempire.wordpress.com circa 2009

And in this economy?? Not cool. So the next year, according to the Daily Bruin, “the custom-made metal frame and tarpaulin used to cover the bear in the past [was] replaced with a wooden enclosure.”

The new digs apparently worked their magic so well that the Bruin Bear Security Force has dusted them off again for the 2011 kick-off.

As of last week, the Bruin has been encased in a $5,000 wooden box, virtually indestructible for its “jigsaw puzzle” mega-grip. And Tommy's all dolled up in his usual duct-tape mummy wrap, as well. (Really, Tommy — get a new ABC costume already. So frosh. We even preferred the “Occupy USC” hobo look.)

But hey, as long as these crazy kids are drawing from the arts-n-crafts box instead of some rusty knife briefcase in the parking lot, we're all good.

Update: Awww. And his little horsey too!

"Traveller's statue is under wraps too. #USC #BeatThebRuins"; Credit: @uscpsycho via Twitter

“Traveller's statue is under wraps too. #USC #BeatThebRuins”; Credit: @uscpsycho via Twitter

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]