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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Honestly, Bruin Streak Is More Like Twist of Faith

September 19, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

For all of us who saw this coming--UCLA plowing through the easy part of its schedule to go 3-0--it's not something we really like to brag about.

I'll just say this: It's a gift.

And you should not be ashamed for thinking all of this impossible, because only blind Bruin faith, as obnoxious as that can be, would have allowed you to contemplate UCLA perfection.

We knew better, of course, because most people didn't know that UCLA has a bigger advantage than almost any other football program in the country.

The Bruins, together as a unit since August without interference or distraction, will not attend a class at UCLA until after they have played four games this season. No classes, no coeds, no parking concerns.

The student-athletes from Alabama and Michigan never had a chance.

The Bruins have been conducting themselves almost like a professional football team for the past month, and while I'm pretty sure they are not drawing the same pay, they are so focused they could probably beat the San Diego Chargers--but then doesn't everybody?

Frankly, the only thing keeping UCLA from winning a national championship is school, which starts officially next week.

"They expect us to go to class here, and take tests, too," said wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, and there you go.

*

NCAA REGULATIONS LIMITED the coaches to working with players only 20 hours a week although school was not in session, but the players have not been restricted from spending their time at the UCLA football factory reviewing videotape, lifting weights or putting in extra time on the upcoming game plan.

"It's nice to have them all concentrating on football without them stressing on tests," said UCLA Coach Bob Toledo, "so I guess that's definitely an advantage for us."

As they say at USC, UCLA gets all the breaks.

*

NOW IF YOU went to USC, you probably already know the answer to this question, but please don't blurt it out.

What's harder, the classes at UCLA or studying to be a quarterback?

"Quarterback," said UCLA's Ryan McCann. "By far."

*

YOU FIGURE ALABAMA, which couldn't beat Southern Mississippi, would finish, what, sixth or seventh at best in the Pac-10? Michigan hails from the Big Ten, and out of conference this season, the Big Ten has compiled a 19-12 record. Penn State plays in the Big Ten, so how good can the Big Ten be?

The Pac-10 has gone 19-4, so if you're UCLA, and you want to keep this going, you might be better off lining up against Nebraska or Florida State. Instead the Bruins get Oregon, and the 2-1 Ducks were early one-point favorites in Las Vegas. Now that's a tough conference.

*

A FEW OLYMPIC MOMENTS:

* The way the U.S. baseball team is playing, the Dodgers should consider hiring the team's manager to replace Davey Johnson.

* The world's watching, but the failure of our male gymnasts should in no way be mistaken as an indication of how we might act in a military situation.

* NBC sold advertisers on the notion that the Olympics would draw between a 17.5 and 18.5 rating, but going into Monday night, the broadcast had averaged 14.5. If only the pixie gymnasts weren't such clods.

NBC probably didn't count on this, but the best thing going for it now is Dennis Miller on ABC's "Monday Night Football," which could mean a huge shift to NBC.

*

WEEK 3 IN THE NFL:

* You would think there would be a lot of holes to climb into in Cincinnati, but as Bengal rookie kicker Neil Rackers discovered, there is no escape.

"Not to point the finger at anyone," said Bengal quarterback Akili Smith. "But we've got to make our field goals."

Rackers has attempted five field goals, and missed them all.

* If you were in a foxhole with Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher and someone tossed in a grenade, Cowher would throw you on top of it.

Running back Jerome Bettis, who had run 20 times for 100 yards, was told to pass with the Steelers ahead by three late in the third quarter and the ball on the Cleveland 20-yard line. The pass was intercepted.

"We had it if Jerome throws it," Cowher said. "He underthrew the ball. It was that type of execution that cost us."

* There's no quit in the Chargers, which makes the results in Arrowhead Stadium the last four years even more of a concern. The Chiefs have outscored them, 130-20.

* The Bears are considering a pitching change: Jim Miller for Cade McNown, which is lot like Carlos Perez stepping in for Ismael Valdes.

* Last week the Chargers suddenly elected to bench Ryan Leaf, sending a message to Leaf that his career with the team was probably over. Then his replacement, Moses Moreno, injured his shoulder, and the brass had to turn back to Leaf to start this week.

Leaf didn't show up at Monday's regularly scheduled news conference, probably on the advice of the Chargers, who cringe every time he opens his mouth. Funny, they also do the same thing every time he throws the ball.

* After delivering late hits the last two weeks to Leaf and Peyton Manning because he plays for the Raiders, defender Regan Upshaw tried to unsettle Denver quarterback Brian Griese by following him to the sideline and taunting him. Griese popped the guy. "He is not a very nice person," he said.

* Remember, he hadn't seen the videotape yet. After Denver running back Mike Anderson trampled the Raider defense for 187 rushing yards, defender Grady Jackson said, "He really wasn't that tough. It was just a missed tackle."

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Anonymous:

"I'm hearing the 49ers might try and beat the Raiders and move to Los Angeles."

I don't know any other way they are going to beat the Raiders.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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