This is such a busy time of the year for local sports that it is hard to decide where to start: UCLA’s new football coach, USC playing for the Pac 12 title, the Rams and Chargers both contending for the playoffs in the National Football league or the Clippers and Lakers not contending for the playoffs in the National Basketball Association.
Let’s take them in that order.
I didn’t think Jim Mora deserved to get fired at UCLA. That being said, the only reason to fire Mora was to get Chip Kelly to replace him.
Kelly may be the biggest name to ever coach at UCLA. Dick Vermeil made his name after leaving UCLA. Red Sanders, who guided the Bruins to their only national championship in 1954, might be next.
Kelly has proved he can win in the Pac 12. He guided Oregon to a 46-7 record in four years from 2009 to 2012 before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. He is respected as an offensive innovator who used fast players and a fast tempo to wear out opposing defenses in the Pac 12 his first time around the conference.
That system didn’t play as well in the NFL where he wore out his own defense, but college rosters are larger than NFL rosters and that won’t be as big a factor here.
Kelly has already shown he can recruit against USC. One of his biggest recruits at Oregon was De’Anthony Thomas, the Crenshaw High star who he stole right out from under USC back in 2011.
Everything UCLA does football wise is aimed at keeping pace with USC. The Bruins have struck out on their last three coaching hires. Athletic Director Dan Guerrero better get this one right or he might be headed to retirement sooner than he planned.
I am not a fan of the College Football Playoff system. It needs at least eight teams and I would prefer 16.
If it was an eight-team field, USC would have a chance to crack the playoffs with a win over Stanford Dec. 1 in the Pac 12 title game.
It would take a major miracle for the Trojans to crack the four-team playoff since they sit at number 10 and have Alabama and Ohio State (the two darlings of the playoff committee) ahead of them on the outside looking in.
USC played its best game of the season when they knocked off Stanford 42-24 in the second week of the season. Since then, Stanford has changed quarterbacks and finished with a Northern Division title.
The Cardinal defeated the Trojans, 41-22, two years ago for the Pac 12 title, on a day when the Trojans couldn’t tackle Christian McCaffrey. This year, the Cardinal have Bryce Love running the ball and he isn’t easy to tackle either.
This is the kind of game the USC could easily lose. It will be up to quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones to keep the ball away from Love and a solid defensive effort for the Trojans to win their first conference title since the conference expanded to 12 teams.
My picks for the final four in the college playoffs: Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Both Los Angeles teams won in the NFL last week.
The Chargers celebrated Thanksgiving in Dallas with an easy 28-6 win over the depleted Cowboys and the Rams defeated the NFC South-leading New Orleans, 26-20, to remain a game ahead of Seattle in the NFC West race.
The Chargers, who started the season 0-4, are now 5-6 and only a game out of the AFC West lead. The Kansas City Chiefs, who won the first five weeks of the season, have now lost five of their last six and are barely holding on.
The Chargers could move into a tie with the Chiefs Dec. 3 when the Chiefs travel to New Jersey to play the Jets and the Chargers host the Cleveland Browns at StubHub Center. Don’t be so quick to mark this one a win, Chargers fan. The Browns scored their only win last year against the Chargers.
Cleveland is again looking for its first of the season. I doubt they will find it in Carson, not the Phillip Rivers has been playing quarterback lately.
The Rams face the Arizona Cardinals in Phoenix. The Cardinals are down to Blaine Gabbart at quarterback with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton injured. The Cardinals surprised the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-24, last week and could catch the Rams looking ahead to next week’s big game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This will be an important week for coach Sean McVay to prevent his team from not focusing on the game at hand.
My guess, though, is that the Rams will take care of business, setting up a showdown with the Eagles at the Coliseum Dec. 10.
The Clippers defeated the Lakers again Nov. 27 at Staples Center. They suffered a big loss in the process as forward Blake Griffin went down with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter. Griffin, who is injury prone and doesn’t heal fast, could be out for two months, putting the Clippers playoff hopes in cold storage.
The Clippers were already playing without their starting and backup point guards and their starting small forward.
Center DeAndre Jordan is the only member of the big three (Chris Paul and Griffin) around and Jordan, although still one of the best centers in the league, can’t carry the team the way Paul and Griffin can.
Owner Steve Ballmer may want to blow this roster up at the end of the season, starting with Doc Rivers.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are still the Lakers: full of promise but just as likely to blow a fourth quarter lead as they are to protect one.
They could have easily defeated the Clippers but missed too many jump shots down the stretch when it seemed like no one wanted to pass the ball.
Lonzo Ball has his moments, but has not been able to hit his shots consistently and is a defensive liability more often than not.
The Lakers seem to be the best when they have Jordan Clarkson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the guards and Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram up front in a lineup without a true center.
That leaves Ball and forward Julius Randle on the bench.
The season is still young, but the schedule is getting tougher. The Lakers face the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets three times each between now and the end of the year and they also face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Dec. 14.
They are currently a game and a half out of a playoff spot. The Clippers are half a game ahead of them in the standings.
It looks like we’ll all be watching the Dodgers come April, when the NBA playoffs start.