Last month, I said UCLA hit rockbottom when they lost to Arizona after trailing 42-6 at halftime. Well now, it's officially reached lower than that after Saturday.
It all starts with the game I pretend didn’t happen because I was at a wedding. Instead of worrying about the score, I enjoyed meeting my girlfriend’s family and hearing a few jokes about when’s our wedding (Slow Down! © Brand Nubian or Chris Rock).
Of course, that didn’t happen. The last part did but of course, I had to watch the game because I had hope UCLA would at least make it respectable considering this was a difficult season. This is the only game that matters on the schedule because the city turns out in force for it.
Needless to say, the game got worse as it got longer. 1st shutout since 2001 – Pete Carroll’s first year. Worst blowout to USC in 71 years. A 50-point beat down where UCLA looked overmatched from the jump.
It was poetic justice that UCLA wore all-White uniforms. It waved a white flag on their season and Rick Neuheisel’s coaching tenure. They didn’t bother showing up and proceeded to get embarrassed like a little brother. Since 1998, UCLA has only won once (not counting USC vacating wins in 2004 and 2005). The eight-game winning streak I enjoyed in my youth is a distant memory.
Worst of all, UCLA has only scored more than once in a game since 2007, the first year I covered the game. It’s not even a rivalry anymore – USC is recruiting better players while UCLA has barely had a decent quarterback since 1998. Sure we had Maurice Jones Drew during my college years, but it's been up and down since then.
Since I’ve been in the media, the best player UCLA recruited was current NFL rookie Rahim Moore or 2nd year man Brian Price. They recruited some great players but outside of their 2007 class, it’s been disappointing. I don't believe the players have been used well and that's all on the coaching staff.
Oh yeah, Rick Neuheisel might as well get his walking papers. He’s done and that football monopoly he said was over 4 years ago? It’s over alright. It’s now a dynasty that isn’t showing any signs of letting up. And it’ll be fitting when UCLA gets their pants waxed by Oregon next week in the Pac-12 title game. That’ll be a nice way to send off this season and Slick Rick’s tenure at Westwood (which I’ll write off for good when his firing is official)
Meanwhile, USC is back to where they were in 2002. A two-loss team playing like the best team in the conference and on an incredible roll. They have the best 1-2 WR combo in maybe the nation high school teammates George Farmer and Marqise Lee and next year will possibly add their 3rd mate in George Farmer to go along with Curtis McNeal at tailback.
Two years on probation and they’ve been able to muster a squad that will be a national title contender or at least on par with the Pete Carroll teams post Bush-Leinart. Those penalties didn’t hurt anything. Matt Barkley is hailed as one of the best QBs in the country. Woods is one of the 5 best WRs in the country and that defense is as good as any in the Pac-12.
I’m not ready to say they’re about to go on another Pete Carroll type run but after beating Oregon, they have all the confidence in the world. I see a USC football program that’s worthy of swagger and for a UCLA fan, it’s disheartening.
This feels like 2002 all over. I remember watching the brief highlights out in San Diego and feeling sick. That team had Carson Palmer and that proved to be the team that paved the way for USC’s dominance. The only difference is that the 2011 squad won’t be going to a BCS bowl game but they are set up to return to excellence assuming Matt Barkley returns next year.
UCLA is in sad shape though. And it could possibly get sadder when Oregon in all likelihood takes us to the cleaners to get ready for their Rose Bowl tuneup. It still boggles my mind that they've backdoored their way into the title game but this is how screwy the whole conference has been.
The Battle for Los Angeles has been one-sided since I was 15. I'm 27 now. Just a reminder that my days of watching Cade McNown, Freddie Mitchell, Danny Farmer, DeShaun Foster and Robert Thomas are long in the rearview and not coming back for a long while.