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Mike Downey

In Showdown, Go With USC Despite Odds

November 18, 1987|Mike Downey

When I woke up this morning, USC-UCLA was on my mind. And before my feet hit the floor, I knew one thing for sure: That I was picking USC to win.

This was bound to trigger a series of events.

For starters, it would freak out just about every man, woman and child in Westwood, where insinuations would be made that I had gotten out of bed not on my feet, but on my head. That not only had I wronged UCLA, but that I probably couldn't spell UCLA.

Next, it would make me a big hero at USC. An honorary citizen of Troy. I would be invited to every toga party on campus. At Saturday's football game, I would even be invited to ride the white horse. Take him out for a spin. Maybe enter him in the Breeders' Cup.

I felt good about all this. I didn't even mind the idea of a UCLA student pointing at USC's horse as we rode by and saying: "Look at that horse's rear end."

And another UCLA student asking: "Which one?"

By noon, alas, I had second thoughts. Cold feet. However you want to describe it.

OK, I wimped out.

I started adding up all the reasons UCLA's football team was superior to USC's. I started asking myself how the Bruins could possibly lose. I started studying rosters, records, scouting reports, depth charts, game films, the UCLA cheerleaders' locker room, everything. I did my homework.

The result?

UCLA has more things going for it than USC. Any sensible person would have to rate UCLA the favorite in Saturday's game, which will determine who gets to beat Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

Let's just look at a few major factors, shall we?

THE COACHES Terry Donahue says he is "very, very, very worried" about this game, as opposed to UCLA's games against Washington, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon and Nebraska, before which he was "very, very worried," and as opposed to the games with Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, San Diego State and Fresno State, before which he was merely "very worried."

Donahue clearly is more worried than Larry Smith, who has only been around long enough to be very, very worried. Once the USC coach loses to UCLA a couple of times, the alumni will start threatening him and kidnaping his family dog and everything, whereupon he can start being very, very, very worried.

Advantage: UCLA.

THE QUARTERBACKS Troy Aikman is the Bruin quarterback, and let me tell you, the Trojans are pretty upset about this. They don't think it's proper for someone not from USC to be calling himself Troy. My word, what if everybody in Westwood started doing it? Then UCLA would be coached by Troy Donahue.

Aikman is playing great these days, but so is Rodney Peete of USC. Both are smart. Both can pass. I guess it boils down to their running ability, and here you obviously have to favor Aikman. Peete's longest run before this season was 32 yards. Aikman ran all the way away from Barry Switzer.

Advantage: UCLA.

THE RECEIVERS Every time I see John Jackson or Ken Henry of USC, they make terrific catches. I like these guys. However, they are simply not colorful enough.

UCLA has Flipper Anderson and Paco Craig. I don't know about you, but when I watch a couple of guys named Flipper and Paco, I expect excitement. I figure no dull guy would have the nerve to call himself Flipper or Paco. The day USC recruits some kid named Jet Jackson or O. O. Henry, call me. Until then, forget it.

Advantage: UCLA.

THE RUNNING BACKS One of the reasons USC is itching for a rematch with Michigan State is that Steven Webster missed the season opener. Another reason is that after carrying 56 times for the Spartans last Saturday, Lorenzo White has blisters that aren't going to heal until February.

In terms of speed, comparing Webster to USC's other backs is like comparing Carl Lewis to Mike Scioscia. However, a certain Gaston Green, ol' Classical Gas himself, happens to carry the ball for UCLA. Having seen USC's defense against Notre Dame, I doubt if it could stop an instant replay of Gaston Green.

Advantage: UCLA.

THE DEFENSE Marcus Cotton, a man who makes Mark Gastineau look shy, leads the way for USC. As linebackers go, he may be another Brian Bosworth. Maybe we should call him the Cot.

UCLA's defense has fewer stars, but more balance. And besides, if those USC guys try to push them around, Ken Norton will have his father beat them up.

Advantage: UCLA.

THE RECORDS I don't suppose Pac-10 officials will go along with me on this, but I have this opinion that any team that loses to the Oregon Ducks should be forbidden to play in the Rose Bowl until the year 2525.

If USC wins Saturday, that would give us a Rose Bowl pitting a team that lost to Oregon against a team that was tied by Illinois. There is no truth to the rumor that USC and Michigan State both are attempting to schedule 1988 games against Columbia.

UCLA's only loss was to Nebraska--at Nebraska. And the Bruins might have won that game if Donahue had given the ball to Gaston Green 56 times.

Advantage: UCLA.

Yes, UCLA has everything going for it. UCLA is one fine team. UCLA probably deserves to be going to the Orange Bowl, much less the Rose. UCLA has good offense, good defense, good special teams, good coaching and a good film school. Only an idiot would pick against UCLA.

I'll take USC, 24-20.

Have a nice day.

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