Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Perception Plus Reality = ?

Here's a Bruin with a nuanced, balanced outlook on the big game. I assume this is the exception rather than the rule.

What Kind of Rival Is UCLA?

USC has two big football rivals: Notre Dame and UCLA. However, the two rivalries are different. The Notre Dame rivalry is characterized by mutual respect. Both USC and Notre Dame have suffered more losses to each other than any other school. The game against Notre Dame almost always takes place in the national spotlight with victory often serving as a launching pad for national championships and Heisman trophies. The rivalry with UCLA, on the other hand, is characterized by mutual dislike (many would say hate, and that would not necessarily be inaccurate). A win over UCLA is nice simply because it keeps the folks across town out of our faces for another year and puts the Bruins in their proper place. I know, I know . . . UCLA fans will point to this sentiment as an example of typical Trojan arrogance; but it’s true.

UCLA players and fans seem to view the cross-town rivalry somewhat differently. College Football Resource gave his take on each side’s perspective a couple weeks ago:

Two rivalries stand out to me as almost comical. Those are the ill feelings between Auburn and Alabama and USC and UCLA.

Most rivalries have both schools on some kind of level ground. That is, Michigan fans can make a lot of claims that they're the best, but so can Ohio State fans. But with these two specific rivalries, there's a certain big brother/little brother feel to them that cracks me up. Not surprisingly, USC and Alabama play the big brother roles. They've had a lot more success over the years, have owned the rivalries and their fans approach the rivalry a little different than those on the other side.

For simple proof, I present to you two blogs, one by a USC fan and the other by UCLA fans. The
USC fan is his usual cool cucumber, relaxed about his place in the world and oblivious to the presence of his rival. The UCLA fan, however, has worked himself into some kind of lather, absolutely frothing three whole weeks before the game against his big brother. This stuff is hilarious . . . . It's like to one side they're just happy with the obligatory win just to shut the other guys up, and on the other side their whole existence is built into the outcome.

USC’s take on the two rivalries is encapsulated by Matt Leinart and fullback Brandon Hancock in today’s Los Angeles Daily News:

Leinart: “We respect Notre Dame. It's a classy rivalry.”

Hancock: “We respect Notre Dame and at the end of the day it's a pretty healthy rivalry. But all bets are off with these pansies. We don't want to just beat them. We want to hurt them. We're not going to call the dogs off in the third or fourth quarter. We want to send a message.”

Music to my ears.

P.S. USC has played Notre Dame 77 times and holds a record of 30-42-5 against the Fighting Irish. USC is 40-27-7 against UCLA.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Nod to Pete Carroll

Not much has been said about the job Pete Carroll has done coaching the Trojans this year. Matthew Zemek includes Carroll on his list of underappreciated coaches:

* Pete Carroll, USC. A weird choice as an “underappreciated” coach, but an appropriate one nevertheless. It’s easy to think winning coaches are just presiding over juggernauts, much the same way Bobby Cox has had it easy in managing the Atlanta Braves to 14 consecutive division championships. But when you consider how much of a bullseye USC wears each game, and how banged-up the Trojans’ defense has been this year, Carroll’s ability to mask weaknesses and get very green players to play big minutes and produce--or at least hang in there well enough to avoid losing games--is nothing short of phenomenal. While Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush will cover up a lot of defensive deficiencies, it still stands that without an ability to get clutch turnovers, USC and its defense would have lost a few games in 2005 that it managed to ultimately win. Carroll has had more than a bit part in shaping that reality. He has scrambled and strategize with all his might to keep SC in line for a third straight title.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reality Check

Here is a link to a video clip from Iranian TV promoting car bombing. (hat tip: HeyDudeWhoa!)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

BCS Bowl-Bound

USC apparently clinched its fourth consecutive BCS bowl berth when Oregon beat Oregon State yesterday, even if USC loses to UCLA. Of course, a loss to UCLA would knock them out of the Rose Bowl and end their hopes of winning a third consecutive national championship.

A Heisman-Winning Performance?

If USC beats UCLA in two weeks and Reggie Bush wins the Heisman, will his outstanding, record-setting performance in the Fresno State game go down as the moment when he locked up the trophy? Ivan Maisel thinks so.

Update: Bush makes Stewart Mandel rethink his Heisman vote -

It was like watching one of those hilarious high-school tapes where some future college star runs roughshod over a bunch of private-school rich kids.

Further update: Pete Fiutak makes a persuasive argument for Matt Leinart to repeat as Heisman winner -
Simply put, if USC beats UCLA and plays for the national title, based on his accomplishments, Leniart will be the greatest college football quarterback of all-time. The guy is overqualified for the honor of being the second two-time Heisman winner.

[. . .]

If USC goes on to win the national title, it’s not an overstatement by any stretch to call Leinart’s pass to Dwayne Jarrett for a 61-yard gain on fourth and nine in the final moments against Notre Dame the greatest throw of all-time.

Another Update: The best ever? Brian Meehan of The Oregonian also thinks so.

USC-Fresno State

USC didn't even have to play this game!

With the Pac-10 schedule moving from eight to nine games starting in 2006, the annual match with Notre Dame, and the likes of Nebraska (2006, 2007) and Ohio State (2008, 2009) on the schedule in the coming years, I think it will be a while before we see Fresno State on the Trojans' schedule again.

Update: I haven't been impressed with Matthew Zemak's analyses this year, but I liked his Instant Analysis of last night's USC-Fresno State game. His thoughts about the nature of this comeback victory as compared to other USC comebacks in 2005, the role of place-kicker Mario Danelo, Reggie Bush's clutch impact, and the potential impact of the game on pollsters' and college football experts' opinions of the Pac-10 in general and Oregon in particular were interesting.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Welsh Rugby Fan Cuts Off Sack

My thoughts after reading this story:

  • Maybe deals like this only help your team if God knows you're actually willing to hold up your end of the bargain.
  • This guy is clearly . . . nuts, but I have to give him his due. I mean, people say stupid shit like that all the time, but how many people actually have the . . . balls to follow through.
  • No wonder the Welsh population growth rate is four times less than the world population growth rate. Perhaps the Welsh should start rooting against their national rugby team. Or just ban wire cutters.
  • No doubt this guy has the world's highest pain threshold, which reminds me of an anecdote about a friend's roommate (yes, I have met the roommate and verified the veracity of the story): So, the roommate is riding his freestyle bike at a terrain park when he slips off the pedals and racks himself on the frame. It hurts. However, he continues with this activity until he notices some blood. Being of sounder mind than the Welsh rugby fan, he decides it is time to go home. He rides his bike several miles back to my friend's house. There, he relaxes on the couch watching TV. It becomes apparent everything is not right, so his girlfriend convinces him to go to the hospital. He ends up receiving stitches at the ER to sew up his scrotum. Men know that there is no worse pain, qualitatively speaking, than getting hit in the balls. When I heard this story I was in absolute awe that my friend's roommate was able to function at all after this incident.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Poll Fiction

Freedom Dip takes exception to USC’s claim to a 2003 national championship in football (hat tip: Burnt Orange Nation):

Let's get something straight with USC and the rest of the college football world.

USC is NOT going for a 3-peat!!! Period.

Who won the national title in 2003? Wasn't it LSU?

If fans say, "Well, USC should have been in the title game." Then I say tough. The BCS is the system agreed upon by the coaches, and the coaches voted the Tigers No. 1 after the Sugar Bowl that year. Ap's vote doesn't even count anymore. BCS is the accepted system for now.

If USC claims half the title in 2003, then Auburn should claim half of the 2004 title.
End of story.

Well, allow me to retort.

Does Tommy Trojan look like a bitch?


No? Then why are you trying to f*** him like a bitch, Freedom Dip?

Seriously, this is a tired argument and the only people trying to make it are LSU fans and other Trojan-haters. USC’s claim is that it is defending two consecutive AP national titles. Yes, there is a distinction. No, USC does not deny that LSU was a co-national champion in 2003 (I seem to remember some kind of ceremony on the south lawn of the White House with both teams present). Why are some LSU fans so determined to reject USC’s equally legitimate claim?

The NCAA does not recognize an official national champion in Division I-A football. Even the BCS itself concedes that there was a split national title in 2003: “For the only time since the BCS was formed, there is a split national champion.”’s Stewart Mandel lays it out in his May 17, 2005 College Football Mailbag:
I'm getting sick and tired of all of you people saying that USC is going for a three-peat. Just being No. 1 in the AP poll does not mean you won the national title. Some people may think this is just an (even after five months) angry Sooners fan ranting, but it's crazy to say the Trojans are going for a three-peat.
--Seth Points, Haskell, Okla.

Tell you what, Seth: We'll stop referring to USC as two-time defending national champion just as soon as Oklahoma renounces its 1950, '55, '56, '74, '75 and '85 national championships. This may come as a shock to you (and to everyone else who has written in with the same complaint), but the Sooners won those titles the same way USC won its 2003 crown: By finishing No. 1 in the AP poll.

You may also be unaware that the crystal trophy handed out at the end of each year's BCS title game is not technically bestowed for winning the game but rather for finishing No. 1 in the coaches' poll (which, conveniently, is required to vote the winner of the game No. 1). So, unless for some reason you think the coaches' poll is somehow more legitimate than the AP poll -- and, as far as I know, they've been considered pretty much equals for about 70 years -- then there's really nothing "crazy" about it.

Let’s not forget that the AP poll was legitimate enough in the eyes of the BCS people that they completely revamped their ranking system after the 2003 season to preclude the recurrence of a unanimous #1-ranked team being excluded from their title game.

Don't believe everything you see in the movies.

USC’s next opponent, Fresno State, believes they have found some chinks in the Trojans’ armor. “The Bulldogs said they . . . noticed some obvious mistakes and subtle errors by USC that opponents failed to take advantage of.”

Adam Jennings, receiver, California State University, Fresno: “You see them on the ESPN highlights and think these guys are the greatest team ever. In the film room . . . they don't look superhuman. You get to see the bad plays, the stuff not on ‘SportsCenter.’ You see mistakes and you have to figure out ways to exploit their weaknesses.”

Beware Bulldogs! Looks can be deceiving.

Houston Nutt, Head Coach, University of Arkansas: “Film is one thing. When you watch film and see them score 55 on Oklahoma’s caliber of defense . . . but to see it live. They are the best offensive team at every position.”

Jerry Glanville, Defensive Coordinator, University of Hawaii, watched every snap that Matt Leinart took in 2003 and 2004. After the game, he said the fifth-year senior was “better than he was last year.”

Bill Doba, Head Coach, Washington State University: “In the first quarter, their speed was something we had never seen.”

That’s right, folks. USC’s School of Cinema-Television, the country’s top film school and the alma mater of George Lucas (who has been spotted at several USC football games this year), is doing its part to support the football team’s 2005 campaign. It’s amazing what they can do with special effects these days.

Fiutak's Voodoo T-shirts

Pete Fiutak recounts the following amusing story in this week's "Cavalcade of Whimsy" on College Football News:

The bidding starts at one USC Song Girl . . . This is no lie. I was wearing my UCLA Football t-shirt while running on the treadmill during the USC-Notre Dame game a few weeks ago. I took a very quick shower during the commercial break after the Brady Quinn fourth quarter touchdown run, and then unwittingly threw on my USC Football t-shirt when I got out. You know the rest. I noticed the same thing happened in reverse during the UCLA-Stanford game. I was wearing the USC t-shirt when working out, took a quick shower early in the fourth quarter, put on the UCLA t-shirt, and the Bruins won with an epic comeback. Guess what shirt was in the rotation when UCLA got destroyed by Arizona? I will wear one of the two on December 3rd. You may begin to woo me.

First of all, that anyone, even someone completely unaffiliated with either university, could so casually switch back and forth between USC and UCLA attire strikes me as very . . . wrong; like the situation on the ESPN commercial where the Ohio State guy and the Michigan girl (or is it the other way around?) are sitting together on the couch acting schmoopy.

Secondly, wear the UCLA T-shirt on Dec. 3, Pete - I wouldn't want there to be any doubt on Dec. 4 that the pasting given to the Bruins by the Trojans resulted from anything other than USC's vastly superior talent, coaching, and fortitude.

On the other hand, who can blame him for the attempted ploy to score some time with a Song Girl?

Move Those Chains

I really like Erik McKinney's "Move Those Chains" columns on WeAreSC. Here are a couple gems from the Cal review:

Giving Pete Carroll four weeks to prepare for any team is like giving me the answer key to a quiz about the best popsicle flavors. Whereas giving Mack Brown four weeks to prepare for a team is like letting me have an extra day to memorize pi out to ten thousand digits. It’s not going to make a difference.

[. . .]

Hey DeSean, at least this way you get to play four quarters every game.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Bullish Prediction

Peter Dudley, over at the Bear Insider, forecasts Cal will upset USC tomorrow:

USC has been on the verge a couple of times this year. I am predicting an upset based on the fact that the Bear will not quit and the Bear will not die. I am predicting that Cal's players and coaches will not be in awe of their opponent this week. I am predicting that this, like the game two years ago, will become an "instant classic" and will feature the best offensive line play by the Bears this year. I'm predicting that this game will not go into overtime. I'm predicting that the Bears will emerge triumphant and will knock the Trojans out of the national championship picture.

Final score: Cal 34, Southern Cal 33.

Sorry, Peter, the Trojans already played in one "instant classic" this season, and they came out on top.

My prediction is somewhat more bearish on the Bears' chances. I am predicting Peter's prediction will be proven nonsense.

USC 42, Cal 21.

What about this season?

This season is an exceptional case. With the expectation level so high after winning the 2004 national championship and returning virtually the entire offense, including the Heisman Trophy winner and another Heisman Trophy finalist (Bush), anything less than winning the 2005 national championship would be a disappointment. However, I would still consider the season successful if USC made it to the Rose Bowl, regardless of the outcome. Of course, my confidence in USC’s chances of if they go to the Rose Bowl is high given Carroll’s track record in BCS bowls, the coaching staff’s proven ability to construct excellent game plans when given extended time to prepare, and the team’s tendency to steadily improve over the course of the season until peaking for the bowl game.

Therefore, even though the team is 9-0 and has already beaten Notre Dame in possibly the best college football game of the year, it is too early to say that USC has had a successful season. In fact, should the team lose one of its last three games, the season would be a disappointment based on this season’s exceptionally high expectation level, and will probably even be a disappointment based on the standard criteria I outlined in the preceding post.

Of course, all I’m thinking about this week is beating Cal. Beat the Bears!

What are the criteria for a successful season?

When I was an undergraduate, I decided that the Trojans must accomplish two of three objectives before I would consider a football season successful: beat Notre Dame; beat UCLA; and go to the Rose Bowl. Incidentally, by these criteria USC never had a successful season while I was an undergraduate due to the unfortunate coincidence of two devastating streaks: eight straight losses to UCLA from 1991 to 1998 (the four that I saw were all very painful, but USC is making up for it now with a six-game winning streak starting in 1999) and Notre Dame’s 13-game unbeaten streak against USC from 1983 to 1995 (the 1994 game was a tie). I was at the last game of the ND streak.

In my mind the criteria has shifted. The Trojans must accomplish two objectives in order to have what I would consider a successful season: 1) go to a BCS bowl game; and 2) beat either Notre Dame, UCLA, or both. USC could finish with an 11-2 record and win a BCS bowl, but if they were to lose to Notre Dame and UCLA, it would not be completely happy about the season. Obviously, the likelihood of losing to both rivals and still going to a BCS game is very low, so I expect that scenario to be rare.

I would be interested to know what fans of other major programs believe are the criteria for a successful season at their schools.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Don't Panic

I finally added a subtitle to the blog. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference will immediately be clear to fans of Douglas Adams. No, you won’t see me at a Hitchhiker’s Guide convention with a prosthetic second head and a fish stuffed in my ear, but I am a big fan of the books. I read them (the first four, anyway) during elementary school, and they surely influenced my sense of humor and contributed to my appreciation of British comedy.

Click this link to play the BBC’s 20th Anniversary Edition of Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The Adventure Game. I remember playing the original version of this game on my family’s Apple IIe.

In case you were wondering, I usually know where my towel is.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Very amusing . . .

video. Even Gators fans in the crowd are "Gettin' Jiggy wit' It". (finder's credit to EDSBS)

Monday, November 07, 2005

League Champs!

My soccer team, Postgame FC, clinched first place in the CCSL Premier Division yesterday morning with a 3 - 1 win over Booters FC. We will be the #1 seed in the play-offs, which begin in two weeks against a semifinal opponent TBD. This was a significant achievement for our team, which has never finished this high in Premier Div. league play. I've only been with the team for two years, but according to the old-timers, Postgame FC started out five or six years ago at the bottom of the bottom division in the league (hence the team name; post-game apparently being the only time the team could post impressive performances).

This result definitely made up for having to get up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning for our 8:00 game.

Bad Analysis

I came across an example of exceptionally bad analysis in Matthew Zemek's "Weekly Affirmation" at College Football

When Cal lost to Oregon in a sloppy football game, USC’s strength of schedule dipped appreciably. A team that had been 5-0 and leading UCLA by 12 points with nine minutes left in regulation had suddenly spiraled to 6-3 before the showdown with the Trojans next weekend. When the Canes and Hokies kicked it off in Blacksburg, I was thinking to myself, “If USC doesn’t blast Cal out of the water—really crush them—on Nov. 12, one has no choice to dock the Trojans for their strength of schedule, just as I docked Texas for its strength of schedule.” I didn’t expect Cal to take this kind of a nosedive, but it happened, and that’s part of the larger body of evidence I have to deal with. My mind has to remain open when new evidence presents itself.

He continues:
Later in the day, the landscape changed even more against USC. When UCLA—a team supposedly worthy of contending for the Pac-10 title as USC’s final regular-season opponent—lost so decisively and pathetically to Arizona, I had no choice but to internally downgrade USC’s schedule strength still more.


Objectively speaking, these two games have absolutely no net effect on USC's strength of schedule because USC plays all four teams. The loss by Cal, USC's Nov. 12 opponent, was a win for Oregon, USC's Sept. 24 opponent; just as UCLA's loss was a win for Arizona, who USC beat on Oct. 8. Therefore, the results of these two games for these four teams cancel each other out in USC's final schedule strength.

Subjectively speaking, the results of these two games should also be a wash. Whereas presumed USC victories over Cal and UCLA will now be less impressive, the past victories over 8-1 Oregon (in Eugene) and Arizona should now appear more impressive. If anything, the results of these two games bolster the evidence supporting USC's current reputation because USC has already beaten the victors of the Cal-Oregon and Arizona-UCLA games, but has not yet played the losers of those two contests.

In addition to Zemek's poor interpretation of the results of those games, he also makes the erroneous assumption that a team's strength is partly determined by its strength of schedule. I'm not saying that strength of schedule is not a legitimate factor of a team's BCS ranking (I'm not saying it is, either, but that's a separate issue). However, for those who believe the Pac-10 is a weak conference (myself not included), one only has to look at USC's non-conference performance over the past 3 years for proof that this assumption about schedule strength is suspect.

Zemek prides himself on his sound analysis of college football. Elsewhere in this piece, he writes, "good college football journalism concerns the process of making sense of events after they happen," and, "it’s making sense of events as they occur, and especially after they occur, that counts." I couldn't resist calling him out.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


What kind of numbers would Leinart, Bush, White, Jarrett, Smith & Co. have if they actually played more than 2 1/2 quarters per game? The pundits would have to apply a factor greater than one to the 3000/2 x 1000/2 x 1000 milestone that everyone's talking about.

This game was virtually over halfway through the first quarter. The second half was so boring I fell asleep during the third quarter (it was a late game on the east coast). If the offense clicks like this for the rest of the season, Cal, Fresno State, and UCLA are going to have very bad days.

How about UCLA?!! Yeah, it would have been nice to be responsible for ruining their undefeated season on Dec. 3, but man it was great to see them go down like that.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Homecoming Photos

Here are some pictures from last week's Homecoming game against Wazzu.

First stop was my cousin's tailgate. Her husband is the one in the Leinart jersey (lucky bugger is a current student at USC).

Pre-game festivities. (photo courtesy of Boomer)

Update: EDSBS was impressed, too.

This band rocks!


My boys, post-game and post-sober.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Best ever?

This is the most persuasive argument I've seen so far regarding USC's standing among the greatest offenses of all time. Take this path to the article if you prefer.