PASADENA, Calif. -- The transfer of sports ownership in Los Angeles is trickier than it is in most cities.
In other municipalities, you can close a deal in a day or transfer it from year to year like a pink slip without much debate.
Win, and it’s yours. You own it. You run it. No debate about it.
Los Angeles, however, is different.
Ownership of the city with respect to its various sports isn’t so much an annual transaction as almost a generational one that doesn’t change hands overnight. As crazy as it might sound, head-to-head results don’t mean as much in the long term as national accomplishments.
On Saturday, UCLA defeated USC 38-20 and claimed a third straight win in the crosstown rivalry. It represents the Bruins’ longest win streak in the series since they claimed eight straight from 1991 to 1998. Not only has UCLA beaten USC three straight seasons, but each one has also been by double digits. The Bruins have scored at least 35 points in three straight games against the Trojans for the first time in the rivalry’s 85-year history.
Last year, UCLA coach Jim Mora pumped his fists after beating USC at the Coliseum and screamed, “We own this town!”
There is no doubt UCLA is the better football team in Los Angeles and has been for three years now. If Los Angeles were just any other city, these results would make Los Angeles a UCLA football town.
By that reasoning, such recent dominance also would make Los Angeles a Clippers town. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers four straight times and eight times in their past nine meetings and thumped them by an average margin of 35.5 points during their final three meetings the past season.
But Los Angeles is not any other city.
Despite what outsiders might think, L.A. isn’t as fickle as the weather or ever-changing standings. Teams don’t relinquish ownership of this city after three years when they’ve been running things for more than 50 years.
Winning Los Angeles will always be far more difficult than winning a division or a championship. Have a great season, and you can claim one of those, but winning Los Angeles will always take more than a good season or three. It takes sustained success over decades -- the kind of sustained success great enough to change rooting interests passed down through generations.
This season’s USC team is the last to be impacted by the three-year NCAA penalty that caps the annual roster at a maximum of 75 scholarship players and the yearly scholarship signees to 15, which is 10 fewer than the NCAA maximum in both cases. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that UCLA’s three-year run has coincided with USC’s punishment, but the Bruins certainly have taken advantage on and off the field, as well, in recruiting during this time period.
Mora and Hundley have enjoyed unprecedented success at UCLA over the past three years. Not only have they beaten USC three straight seasons, but Saturday’s win also locked up the ninth win of the Bruins’ season. Never before in the story of UCLA football (dating back to 1919), have the Bruins won at least nine games in three straight seasons.
But unless UCLA can beat Stanford next week and Oregon the following (they haven’t beaten both in the same season since 2007), they will finish this three-year run without a conference title and without a trip to the Rose Bowl or a BCS quality bowl. The Bruins’ most recent conference title and trip to the Rose Bowl were in 1998, and their most recent Rose Bowl win was 1985.
Los Angeles is a city owned and run by the teams that win championships. It’s the only kind of currency this town recognizes. Head-to-head battles and win streaks are nice, but they are quickly forgotten when trophy cases accumulate dust. The same goes for empty seats in the crowd. As good as UCLA has been these past three seasons, they Bruins have been hard-pressed to get the Rose Bowl filled to capacity.
The Rose Bowl seats 92,542, but the most recent time a UCLA home game cracked 90,000 was in 2006, when a 7-6 UCLA squad spoiled USC’s shot at playing in the national championship. Saturday’s game drew 82,431 in Pasadena, which meant there were about 10,000 empty seats for the showdown between No. 9 UCLA and No. 19 USC.
USC has 11 national championships and six Heisman trophy winners, and 483 Trojans have been taken in the NFL draft -- second only to Notre Dame. From 2002 to 2008, USC enjoyed seven straight 11-win seasons, conference championships and BCS bowls and won two national championships. The Trojans also beat UCLA in 12 of 13 games from 1999 to 2011, culminating in a 50-0 win at the Coliseum. Sure, it’s old news and nothing more than a history lesson, but it’s what Los Angeles recognizes and respects.
Likewise, L.A. sports fans respect the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships, UCLA’s 11 national championships in college basketball and the Dodgers’ six World Series titles. Yes, their crosstown rivals might get the better of them from time to time, but until that translates into something more than bragging rights, ownership of Los Angeles won't change hands.
South Division picture clearer: With UCLA's 38-20 whipping of USC and Arizona's 42-10 bludgeoning of Utah, the Trojans and Utes are out of the South Division race. So it comes down to UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State on the final weekend of the regular season to see who plays North Division champion Oregon on Dec. 5 for the Pac-12 title. UCLA controls its fate: It wins the South if it beats Stanford on Friday. If UCLA loses to Stanford, the winner of the Territorial Cup on Friday is the Pac-12 champion. Funny thing: Both games are 12:30 PT kicks, so they will be contested simultaneously, which means the Sun Devils and Wildcats likely will be doing some scoreboard watching during their rivalry game.
This is the biggest Territorial Cup in a long time: Arizona and Arizona State, both 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12, will meet in the Territorial Cup as ranked teams for the first time since 1986. The most recent time both teams had at least nine wins was 1975 (ASU 10-0, Arizona 9-1). The South Division is still undecided. Next Friday, with everyone stuffed with turkey, this will be great fun in Tucson. Big question, though: Will Arizona QB Anu Solomon, who left the Wildcats' win over Utah with a lower-leg injury, be available?
Newly bowl eligible: Stanford's 38-17 win over Cal and Washington's 37-13 win over Oregon State made each team bowl-eligible and gave the Pac-12 eight eligible teams. Cal and Oregon State still can become bowl-eligible on the final weekend. Cal needs to beat BYU at home on Saturday, while the Beavers need to end their six-game losing streak in the Civl War against state Oregon.
Cal is much better, but Stanford still rules the Big Game: Cal and Stanford entered the Big Game with matching 5-5 records, but the Cardinal made a dominant statement and won their fifth in a row in the series. That means no Stanford senior will experience life without The Axe. Entering the game, it was a matchup of a good offense (Cal) versus a good defense (Stanford) and a bad offense (Stanford) versus a bad defense (Cal). We learned Stanford's good defense is better than Cal's good offense, and its bad offense is better than Cal's bad defense.
Washington State's freshman QB Luke Falk has lots of potential, but he hasn't yet arrived: Falk was impressive coming off the bench to replace an injured Connor Halliday against USC and had a brilliant starting debut at Oregon State and a strong start at Arizona State, when the Cougs jumped ahead 21-7 against the Sun Devils. But things went haywire thereafter, and Falk started looking like a freshman. He committed five turnovers (four picks and a fumble) in a game the Cougars lost 52-31. He threw for 601 yards and three TDs, and he has shown plenty of good things that point to a strong future running Mike Leach's offense. But the performance in Sun Devil Stadium showed he's still got ways to go, which really shouldn't be surprising.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Naturally, UCLA coach Jim Mora would have preferred his Bruins be a pristine 11-0, having already locked up the Pac-12 South ahead of next week’s season finale against Stanford.
But let’s be honest. When you hoist your sails in Pac-12 waters, you’re going to hit a couple of rocks.
UCLA took on water midway through the season with back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon, and the national media just assumed the S.S. Bruin was unsalvageable.
But the Bruins bailed the water out. And five wins later -- including their most recent 38-20 pasting of USC Saturday night -- No. 9 UCLA once again finds itself hanging around for a spot in the College Football Playoff. And while swallowing a pair of home losses never sits well, perhaps the silver lining of the mid-season defeats is that the national media turned its oppressive stare away from Westwood, giving the Bruins the space they needed to grow into the team that throttled its rivals at the Rose Bowl Saturday night.
Saturday night, UCLA looked every bit the dominant team many thought it would be when the Bruins were tapped as the No. 7 team in the country in the preseason. The defense was vicious -- sacking USC quarterback Cody Kessler six times and picking up eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Trojans, who averaged 35.2 points per game coming into the game, were held to just 20 points.
Offensively, quarterback Brett Hundley shook off an early pick-six and ended up 22-of-31 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a 15-yard score.
And let’s not overlook the fact that the Bruins are now 3-0 against USC in the Mora era. To boot, all three wins have come by 10 points or more. The last time that happened was 1953-55, a time period that saw the Bruins win the UPI national championship in 1954.
Mora took all of two sentences to relish the significance of the win.
“We don’t bask in moments,” he said. “We’ll just move on to the next moment.”
The next moment involves a Stanford squad that is 3-0 against Mora. With a victory Friday the Bruins will clinch the Pac-12 South and face the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game. If they lose, then Saturday’s Territorial Cup between Arizona State and Arizona will determine the division champion.
Schematically, the Bruins didn’t make any drastic overhauls when they hit their two-game skid. They took the leash off Hundley and gave him more freedom to run. And they put more of an emphasis on their base offense. But for the most part, the UCLA team Saturday -- from an X's and O's standpoint -- was the same that won Aug. 30 at Virginia.
“Those two losses feel like 100 years ago,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not [upset] that we lost both. I think we’ve seen the offensive line really improve over the last month. And the glass half full is that maybe we’re a better football team because of those losses. The kids refocused, and we went back to our base, and we figured we’d just get good at what we do.”
It sounds simple enough. The result has been a spike in the national rankings and UCLA’s second win over a top-20 team in its last five games. And the Bruins are sure to climb again when the new rankings are released Tuesday, given their win over the No. 19 Trojans and Ole Miss’ loss to Arkansas.
Of course, just like when his team was ranked No. 7 in the preseason, Mora was in no mood to talk about the playoff.
“I talk about the Pac-12 championship,” he said. “We have to win Friday. If we can win Friday, we will have another shot to win the Pac-12 championship. I don’t talk about that other stuff.”
And yet the “other stuff” can’t be ignored. Because if the Bruins were to win the conference, it would include a win over (likely) No. 2 Oregon and give them a compelling case for being the best two-loss team in the country. And if a conference championship counts for something -- as the selection committee claims -- the Bruins would have a very strong argument for inclusion.
UCLA eliminated USC from the Pac-12 South race with a lopsided 38-20 win at the Rose Bowl. It marks the first three-game winning streak in the series for the Bruins since 1996-98.
How the game was won: After USC (7-4, 6-3 Pac-12) took a 7-0 lead, UCLA (9-2, 6-2) basically did whatever it wanted. The Bruins led 24-14 at halftime and extended the lead to 38-14 in the third quarter before coasting to the win.
Game ball goes to: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley finished 22-of-31 for 326 yards three touchdowns passes to move to 3-0 in his career against the Trojans -- the first Bruins quarterback since Cade McNown with such a record. Hundley also rushed for a touchdown and passed McNown to become UCLA's career leader in total offense.
What it means: UCLA can lock up the Pac-12 South with a win against Stanford next week at home. It would be the Bruins' third appearance in the title game since it was introduced in 2011 -- the most of any Pac-12 team. USC could have clinched the division on Saturday with a win and an Arizona State loss to Washington State, but instead are no longer in contention.
Playoff implication: UCLA is a serious threat for a playoff berth. If the Bruins win out, they would be 11-2 (including a potential revenge win against Oregon). Would that be enough to convince the committee they deserve a shot? Who knows, but they would have to be seriously considered. Their résumé would include five wins against teams that are currently ranked by the committee and both losses are also to ranked teams. That compares favorably to, say, Ohio State, which has one bad loss (Virginia Tech) and counts Minnesota as one of its best two wins.
Best play: UCLA's Thomas Duarte caught a 57-yard pass from Hundley in the first quarter, which set the tone for the type of night it would be.
What's next: UCLA hosts newly bowl-eligible Stanford (6-5, 4-4) next week and USC will host reeling Notre Dame (7-4).
PASADENA, Calif. -- Brett Hundley passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score, leading No. 11 UCLA past No. 24 Southern California 38-20 on Saturday night for the Bruins' third straight victory in the annual crosstown showdown.
Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington caught scoring passes as the Bruins (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) confirmed their Los Angeles supremacy and closed in on the Pac-12 South title with a one-sided romp over their biggest rivals at a festive Rose Bowl.
Paul Perkins rushed for 93 yards and a score for UCLA, which hadn't won three straight over USC since 1998.
After five consecutive wins down the stretch of a slow-starting season, UCLA can advance to the Pac-12 title game with a victory over Stanford on Friday.
Cody Kessler passed for 214 yards for the Trojans (7-4, 6-3), who struggled mightily against UCLA's inspired defense.
1Q UCLA M. Mengel punt for 33 yds,N. Agholor returns for -7 yds,N. Agholor fumbled, recovered by UCLA T. Lagace,Mengel, Matt punt 33 yards to the USC15, Aghol
Final Washington State 31 13 Arizona State 52 Final 15 Arizona 42 17 Utah 10 Final Stanford 38 California 17 Final Colorado 10 2 Oregon 44 Final 19 USC 20 9 UCLA 38 Final Oregon State 13 Washington 37