Ahh the annual USC-Notre Dame football game. It could be considered the best non-regional rivalry in college football. If you are a UCLA fan, you hate USC, but what if you're not exactly all in on the Fighting Irish, either?
This is a tough one if you (like me) fall into that camp. A Notre Dame win keeps them undefeated and boosts them into the four-team College Football Playoff, which will officially be announced next week. But who wants to see that? On the other hand, an 'SC loss makes them ineligible for a bowl game, and if UCLA can't go (they are 3-9), then the Trojans shouldn't go either, right? And, if USC gets blown out, maybe their coach gets fired, which happened to UCLA last year after losing to the Trojans.
Well, Notre Dame did win, but it was close. USC actually led 10-7 at halftime, but the Irish rallied, and won 24-17. Notre Dame is 11-0 (echh), and the Trojans fall to 5-7 (smiley face), and like UCLA, will not be playing in the myriad of postseason games that invite anyone with a non-losing record. Six wins gets you in, but that number is way to high in Los Angeles this year.
We did some checking because it certainly doesn't happen very often. Only one other time this century has neither UCLA nor USC played in a bowl game, and that was in 2010, and it was because USC was on NCAA probation. The Trojans went 8-5 that year, and were also on probation the next year but went 10-2. The Bruins, though, got to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl that year.
The last time USC had a losing record was 2000 when the Trojans went 5-7. UCLA went to the Sun Bowl that year, so the last time neither UCLA nor USC had a winning record was 1999. The Trojans were 6-6 (back then, you had to have a winning record to be bowl eligible), and the Bruins were 4-7. Going back to 1995 (because I found what I needed and didn't feel like going back any further), the only other times USC didn't go to a bowl were 1997 and 1996. In '97, the Trojans were 6-5 but were not invited to a bowl game (there weren't nearly as many of them as there are now), and in '96 they were 6-6 and not bowl eligible.
UCLA's bowl resume isn't as impressive as SC's, but still noteworthy. The Bruins have been more likely to participate in the Las Vegas and Sun Bowls instead of the Rose (USC has been there seven times since 1995 and UCLA once (1998)), but, like the Trojans, have only stayed home a handful of times. UCLA got to the Cactus Bowl last year, but missed the post-season in 2016. They weren't good enough in 2010 and 2008, and actually declined an invitation to a so-called 'lesser' bowl in 2001 despite going 7-4. In 1999, they were 4-7, and in 1996, the Bruins were 5-6.
So, while this doesn't quite seem like a banner year for college football teams in Los Angeles, it actually is. Add this one to the not-so-prestigious list where both the UCLA and USC football teams have nothing to do in December. It's 2018, 2010, 1999, and 1996 the only times in the last 25 years. At least now LA has the Rams and the Chargers.
(No) D-fense!: We doublechecked. This was not a basketball score. Texas A&M defeated LSU 74-72 on Saturday (yes, a football game). The game went seven overtimes, and was tied 31-31 at the end of regulation. That means the Aggies outscored the Tigers 43-41 in the extra periods. Hopefully, if you were in Vegas, you took the over.
North of the border: It won't be compared to the Super Bowl anytime soon, but it's twice as old. The Calgary Stampeders defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 Sunday to win the 106th Grey Cup, and the Canadian Football League championship. Native Canadian Alessia Cara performed during halftime, and extra credit for you if you know who she is (I didn't). The telecast from TSN in Canada was carried in the states by ESPN2.
Free agent bonanza: The first splash of baseball's offseason was made today when third baseman Josh Donaldson signed a one-year, 23 million dollar deal with Atlanta. He becomes the first major free agent to switch teams. The Braves also have been reunited with catcher Brian McCann, who also signed a one-year contract. McCann's deal is worth only two million, and it's reported that he declined higher offers to sign for his former and home town team.
Pay-per-view golf not at it's finest: I have to admit I was intrigued by the made-for-television Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods match on Friday, although I did not get to see it. Mickelson won on the fourth playoff hole, but the broadcast, offered by Turner for $19.95, was filled with so many glitches that viewers ended up getting the thing for free, if they saw an e-mail providing an online link. Now they are being offered refunds. As for the match, Mickelson gets nine million dollars, but it's not like the two were putting up their own money. In a pre-match interview together, Tiger and Phil seemed much too lovey-dovey to get viewers pysched up.
Truth in advertising: Even at 65 miles an hour this was hard to miss. I saw a billboard along Highway 99 in Fresno for a store that sells bar furniture. Their slogan? “You'll like our stool samples.”