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FOR THE 34TH TIME. Image courtesy of veooz.com

 

THOUGHTS REGARDING L.A.’S TWO HISTORICALLY SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE SPORTS PROGRAMS MAKING HUGE STRIDES TO RETURN TO THE TOP – USC RETURNING TO THE ROSE BOWL AND UCLA DEFEATING #1 RANKED KENTUCKY ON THE ROAD AND RISING TO #2 IN THE POLLS

 

They each have eleven national championships to their credit.

They have both gone through some bad times in recent years, one team suffering from the effects of the sanctions imposed on them by the NCAA and the other trying to recover from a season where they finished with a losing record, a rarity for that program.

And as of today, that sanctioned football team will be playing in the Rose Bowl game for the 34th time – the most of any school – where they will be trying to win it for the 25th time (also more than any other school) on January 2nd.

Meanwhile, that basketball team that played so poorly they virtually couldn’t beat a good high school team this past spring went to Lexington, KY, home of not only the nation’s top-ranked team but a team that is a true elite in college basketball, their eight national titles standing second all-time…

And beat the Kentucky Wildcats for the second year in a row!

While last year’s win turned out to be a fluke as it was at home, this triumph was on Kentucky’s court!

And earned them a boost in the rankings to #2 in the latest AP poll!

I won’t say that these UCLA Bruins are back – not yet, as there are many basketball games to be played – but they took a significantly huge step in returning to the elite status that their record 11 national crowns has given them.

 

 

Highlights of the Bruins’ biggest win within the last five years, their 97-92 triumph over previously top-ranked Kentucky. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Before I go on about Bruin Hoops, let’s talk about USC’s return to the Roses…

Those Trojans didn’t win the Pac-12 South, Colorado claiming those honors after beating Utah.

But the fact that they defeated both the Buffaloes and the Pac-12 champions that will be playing the seemingly invincible Alabama Crimson Tide in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff on December 31st, the Washington Huskies – in their house, no less…

Combined with their current eight-game winning streak after a 1-3 start,

And the fact that they are playing arguably the best football in the country outside of Tuscaloosa, AL, where Alabama’s Tide resides,

Evidently influenced the selection committee to the point where although it was a close call, that committee felt it right to leapfrog USC to 9th while dropping Colorado to 10th in the polls, sending the Trojans to Pasadena.

The scary thing about all of this?

 

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Adoree Jackson going for one of his three touchdowns in USC’s big win over Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. Photo courtesy of spokesman.com

 

The fact that the quarterback who’s largely responsible for ‘SC’s surge, Sam Darnold, is a redshirt freshman.

Not to mention the fact that many of USC’s key players are set to return in 2017.

And if their two biggest stars, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and defensive back/returner/(sometimes) receiver Adoree Jackson – who had a game for the ages against Notre Dame on November 26th when he scored three touchdowns in three different ways, one by a kick return, one by a punt return, and one by a reception – decide to not turn pro and return to school in 2017 as they are both juniors and eligible for the NFL draft this coming spring…

The Pac-12 and the rest of the nation will be in deep trouble as those Trojans will be the overwhelming favorite to win the conference and a favorite to be one of the four teams in next year’s College Football Playoff.

Heck, I’m sure that many pundits will predict a national championship for USC.

Which would complete their rise from the ashes that the sanctions put upon them.

 

Highlights of the Trojans’ latest win in their eight-game streak, a 45-27 pasting of Notre Dame. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

As for UCLA’s Basketball team…

I’ll be honest.

Though the Bruins started well in winning their first eight games, I didn’t expect them to beat the #1 ranked team on their home court as I would have been encouraged if they had played Kentucky tough and lost by five to ten points.

When I was told that UCLA had won, I was floored!

Floored that they broke a 42-game home winning streak and outplayed a storied Wildcat squad the way they did.

More than anything else, along with the rest of Bruin Nation that triumph convinced me that this UCLA team is not only for real, but determined to erase that joke of a 2015-16 season from Westwood’s hearts and minds.

Two things are prominent in my mind regarding the Bruins in hoops, however…

1.  Bruin Nation better enjoy watching super freshman Lonzo Ball, a prominent reason for UCLA’s success, while they can, because Ball and his family have already indicated that he will be a one-and-done and gone next season.

The other super freshman, T.J. Leaf, who has been the rebounding beast that the Bruins sorely lacked last year?

His chances of being a UCLA sophomore instead of an NBA rookie in 2017-18 are better than Ball’s as he has said that he’ll decide in March, but we’ll have to see.

 

 

Ike Anigbogu, another one of UCLA’s super freshmen, throwing down a dunk during the Bruins’ epic win over Kentucky on Saturday. Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com

 

 

2.  Now that the Bruins have taken down the nation’s top-ranked team on their court and are now the second ranked team in the country, a very difficult part is coming up:

Not Letting Down.

That has often been a problem for UCLA’s sports teams as they have a history of playing to the level of their opponents and having a hangover after beating a top opponent, playing badly and often losing to whoever they play next.

The Bruins’ big test against this will come this coming Saturday, December 10th, when they play Michigan in Pauley Pavilion.

I will only pronounce UCLA Basketball as being back and officially a contender for the Final Four if they play, at minimum, as good a game against those Wolverines from Ann Arbor as they did against Kentucky.

If not better, which is what I’m really looking for them to do.

In fact, the eight-clap for that game needs to be…

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, U…C…L…A… U! C! L! A! DON’T LET DOWN!!

By roughly 8:00 p.m. next Saturday night – the Bruins’ game tips off at 5:00 – as far as whether or not a 12th banner is legitimately possible,

I will know.

 

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, KY – DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com

 

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