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Text messages from press row . . .

September 12, 2008|JERRY CROWE

Matt Cassel could be the next Tom Brady. ...

He might lead the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. . . .

Or -- and this would be OK too -- he might be the NFL's answer to Swen Nater. ...

Like Cassel at USC, Nater never started at UCLA as Bill Walton's understudy but enjoyed a long pro career, leading both the NBA and ABA in rebounding and reaching the NBA Finals with Magic Johnson and the Lakers in 1984. . . .

Cassel, a reserve since leaving Chatsworth High and Brady's backup until this week, is now better positioned to lead his team to the Super Bowl than former teammates Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. . . .

While Palmer leads a mediocre team, Leinart caddies for Kurt Warner. . . .

Jay Schroeder, 61-38 as an NFL starter and a Pro Bowl pick with the Washington Redskins, started one game at UCLA. . . .

Kobe Bryant, forgoing surgery on his injured right pinkie, averaged more points last season after suffering the injury Feb. 5 than he did before. . . .

It's easy to imagine Torii Hunter and the Angels shoving their way into October with the best record in the majors while Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers squeeze in with the worst record among the eight playoff teams. . . .

It's probably worth noting that the last two World Series have been won by the playoff team with the worst regular-season record (David Eckstein and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006) and the team with the best regular-season record (Mike Lowell and the Boston Red Sox last October). . . .

The Angels have never finished with the majors' best record. . . .

Not everything points to a USC victory Saturday night. . . .

Mark Sanchez and the Trojans may be favored over fifth-ranked Ohio State, but USC has not defeated a top-five opponent during the regular season since September 1991, according to STATS LLC. . . .

The statistic is a little misleading, however, because the Trojans are 5-1 against top-five opponents in bowl games during that time. . . .

Norm Chow, returning to Brigham Young on Saturday, has not lost as a college football offensive coordinator in nearly five years -- since Sept. 27, 2003, to be exact, when USC lost to Cal in triple overtime. . . .

Of course, he spent three of those years with the Tennessee Titans, but the UCLA assistant's college teams still have won 23 consecutive games. . . .

Within hours of Lance Armstrong's announcement that he was returning to cycling, BetOnline.com made the cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner an 8-5 pick to add an eighth title next summer. . . .

This time, Armstrong presumably will be riding without support from rocker Sheryl Crow, who lances her allegedly backpedaling ex-fiance in "Diamond Ring," a song from her latest album: "Some say love is blind/But I say love is only in the mind/Diamonds may be sweet/But to me they just bring on cold feet." . . .

Presidential candidate Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" taunt brought to mind a similar putdown by former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell. . . .

Making it clear that the NFL was not interested in putting a team in a refurbished Coliseum, Modell told Sam Farmer of The Times a few years back, "Trying to put a new dress on an old hooker is not the way I want to go dancing." . . .

By the way, this is Day No. 5,011 of Los Angeles and Orange counties being held hostage without NFL football. . . .

It has been nearly 14 years since the Rams and Raiders played their last Southern California home games Dec. 24, 1994, Jerome Bettis and the Rams losing to the Redskins in Anaheim and the Jeff Hostetler-led Raiders falling to the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum. . . .

In advance of Michael Phelps' taking the plunge this weekend, Andrew Payne of starpulse.com ranks "any athlete" among the most overrated "Saturday Night Live" hosts, dismissing Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Tom Brady, et al., as "wooden" and declaring, "None of the athletes is ever funny, so let's recognize them as awful hosts on the level of Britney Spears and Steve Forbes." . . .

In a disclaimer, Payne calls Peyton Manning "exceptional." . . .

UCLA and Indiana, meeting tonight at Drake Stadium in men's soccer, have produced nearly 75 Major League Soccer players between them. . . .

Says Angels broadcaster and former major leaguer Rex Hudler, "There's no better feeling in the world as when you make the postseason." . . .

How about when you win a championship?

--

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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