College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: USC to open season against defending champ Alabama

USC football fans are an interesting breed.

They expect their team to contend for national championships every year and when the team isn’t capable of contending — for whatever reason — they want the head coach fired. It will be interesting to see how that plays out this season, which begins Sept. 3 with the Trojans traveling to Texas to play defending national champion Alabama.

The Trojans are starting the season with a head coach — Clay Helton — who is in his first season as a head coach and a quarterback — Max Browne — who hasn’t started a game since 2012, when he was a high school senior.

On the other side of the field will be coach Nick Saban, who has won four of the last seven national championships for the Crimson Tide, including last year’s. His team returns 14 starters from last year’s team and is the preseason favorite to win another title.

The Trojans are ranked 20th

Like USC’s Helton, Saban will be breaking in a new quarterback. The oddsmakers favor Alabama by 11 ½ points. There are lots of USC fans willing to take those points.

The Trojans have a chance to score a major upset in Helton’s first season-opener as a head coach. The Trojans always have athletes on the roster who will be playing on Sundays sometime in the near future. Cornerback Adoreé Jackson, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Shuster, running backs Justin Davis and Ronald Jones are all exceptional athletes who are capable of making big plays.

At quarterback, Browne was the most regarded senior high school quarterback in the country four years ago. How fast the rust comes off Browne will be important in determining how good the Trojans will be this season.

The Trojans will have to score a lot of points this season because their defensive line and linebacking corps are inexperienced.

But Alabama knows how to win in an offensive shootout, as it proved last January by defeating Clemson, 45-40, in the national championship game. The Tide trailed that game 24-21 entering the fourth quarter, before outscoring the Tigers 24-16 in the fourth quarter.

So USC will be tested in its season opener, which begins at 5 p.m. and will air on Channel 7. Can they win it?

As an old Trojan fan, the answer is yes. Anything can happen in a football game.

But I won’t be calling for Helton’s head if the Trojans lose in Dallas this week. As long as they beat Notre Dame, UCLA and everyone else on the schedule, I will be fine.

Josh Rosen, the sophomore quarterback out of St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, leads the UCLA Bruins in their season opener Sept. 3 against Texas A7M in College Station, Texas. The Bruins are the preseason pick to win the Pac 12 Southern Division. (File photo)
Josh Rosen, the sophomore quarterback out of St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, leads the UCLA Bruins in their season opener Sept. 3 against Texas A7M in College Station, Texas. The Bruins are the preseason pick to win the Pac 12 Southern Division. (File photo)

BRUINS OPENER: The season opener for the UCLA Bruins is no picnic in the park, either. The Bruins also are travelling to Texas to open the season Sept. 3, although they only have to play Texas A&M, not the defending national champion.

The Bruins enter the season ranked 16th nationally in the Associated Press poll and were picked to win the Pac 12 Southern Division in another preseason media poll.

Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen of St. John Bosco High in Bellflower returns to run the offense, which has been redesigned by new offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu (a former Trojan at UCLA?).

The offense will feature a fullback and tight end this year, unlike the last several years when the Bruins ran a lot of shotgun formations with three and four wide receivers.

Most of Rosen’s top receivers from last year turned pro in the off-season so the Bruins converted a former starting defensive back, Ishmael Adams, to wide receiver. It says something about the Bruins depth in the secondary to make that move. Adams has been an outstanding kick returner for the Bruins so he knows what to do with the ball in his hands.

Running back Paul Perkins has graduated to the NFL, but Rosen still has some talent to hand the ball to in junior Nate Starks and sophomore Soso Jamabo.

On defense, Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury to anchor the defensive line and the Bruins have depth at linebacker and in the secondary.

The Bruins defense lost three key starters last year to injury — linebacker Miles Jack, Vanderdoes and cornerback Fabian Moreau — and never seemed to recover.

The defensive will recognize a lot about the Texas A&M offense because former Bruin offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is now calling the plays for the Aggies.

Game time is at 12:30 p.m. on Channel 2. I like the Bruins starting the season with a win.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a two-inning simulated game against minor league hitters Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium and is expected to pitch in a minor league game this weekend as he tries to return from a back injury. (Courtesy photo)
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a two-inning simulated game against minor league hitters Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium and is expected to pitch in a minor league game this weekend as he tries to return from a back injury. (Courtesy photo)

THE HOME STRETCH: The Los Angeles Dodgers are heading into the final month of the season with a two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants, a thin lead with 31 games remaining.

After pitching the equivalent of a two-inning simulated game Aug. 30, ace lefthander Clayton Kershaw is expected to make a minor league start this weekend in preparation for his likely return next week.

If Kershaw can regain his form after missing two months with a back injury, I like the Dodgers’ chances of staying ahead of the Giants.

While pitching is key to most contending teams, the Dodgers are a better team when their offense is clicking on all cylinders.

When one or two key players are slumping, it drags down the whole team.

With a good September, shortstop Corey Seager should capture the National League’s rookie of the year award. He has been the steadiest hitter all year for the team.

Third baseman Justin Turner and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also are consistent in the middle of the order for the Dodgers. It’s the other five players — left fielder Howie Kendrick, second baseman Chase Utley, center fielder Joc Pederson, right fielder Josh Reddick and catcher Yasmani Grandal — who must contribute so the Dodgers can survive a weak starting rotation aside from Kershaw.

There are six games left against the Giants, including the last three of the season in San Farncisco Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Hopefully, the Dodgers have clinched the Western Division pennant before that series.

With much fanfare, Mike Garrett was named executive director of athletics at Cal State Los Angeles last November. Garrett quietly retired in June and was named this week in a sexual harassment suit against the university by senior associate athletic director Sheila Hudson. (Courtesy photo)
With much fanfare, Mike Garrett was named executive director of athletics at Cal State Los Angeles last November. Garrett quietly retired in June and was named this week in a sexual harassment suit against the university by senior associate athletic director Sheila Hudson. (Courtesy photo)

THE STORY REVEALED: Cal State Los Angeles made a big splash last November when it hired Mike Garrett, the former USC athletic director, as its executive director of athletics.

“Mike Garrett is the perfect person to guide Cal State L.A. athletics to a new era of excellence,” university President William A. Covino said at the time.

There was a lot less buzz in June when Cal State L.A. sent out a news release saying Daryl Gross had been hired as executive director of athletics, while hardly mentioning Garrett, who retired.

The reason became clearer Aug. 30 when senior associate athletic director Sheila Hudson announced she was suing Cal State and Garrett for sexual harassment.

Hudson’s suit alleges employment violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to the lawsuit, Garrett referred to female employees, including Hudson, as “Babe,” “Sweetheart,” “Love,” and “Legs,” during his brief tenure at Cal State.

“Such conduct by Garrett was nothing more than a male, chauvinistic bullying tactic designed to immediately undermine the authority and importance of the woman he is harassing,” the suit alleged.

The suit said Garrett had other shortcomings, accusing him of being “essentially computer illiterate.”

Ogletree Deakins, a law firm representing Cal State L.A. , issued a statement, calling the suit a “malicious complaint [and] a reckless compilation of exaggerations and fabrications.”

Garrett was a star at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles before attending USC, where he was the first Trojan to win the Heisman Trophy in 1965.

He was USC’s athletic director from 1993 to 2010.