Who would have imagined that in only his second season, Rick Neuheisel would have UCLA playing as well as USC? . . .
Pete Carroll protects his freshman quarterback more aggressively and passionately than his offensive line does. . . .
If quarterback Andrew Luck had wound up at Notre Dame instead of Stanford, he'd be Luck of the Irish. . . .
And still bedeviling USC. . . .
Shell-shocked USC football fans might be asking themselves this week, "What is the Poinsettia Bowl?" . . .
Perhaps best described as a grandchild of them all, the Dec. 23 game at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium will match a Mountain West Conference team against a Pacific 10 Conference also-ran, which is why USC fans might suddenly be aware of it. . . .
The Poinsettia Bowl debuted in 2005, only 103 years after Michigan swamped Stanford in the first Rose Bowl game. . . .
The Sporting News, for what it's worth, predicts that Matt Barkley and USC will play Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl and UCLA will play Idaho in the Humanitarian Bowl. . . .
Both games are Dec. 30. . . .
UCLA declined a Humanitarian Bowl bid in 2001, citing costs as its reason for ducking a five-night stay in Boise, Idaho. . . .
Memo to the anonymous caller who labeled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar "overrated" and wondered how many Hall of Fame centers he'd played against: He played against 15, from Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond at the start of his career to Moses Malone, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon at the end. . . .
Wasn't the addition of lockdown veteran Ron Artest supposed to make the Lakers a better defensive team? . . .
This is the third time in five seasons that Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are 9-0, but it's the first time they got there with an assist from Bill Belichick. . . .
The Colts were 9-0 last year too -- after a 3-4 start. . . .
Maurice Jones-Drew deserves as much attention for his MVP-caliber season as his heady Sunday kneel down. . . .
Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL might play two games in London next year or, put another way, two more than have been played in Los Angeles over the last 15 years. . . .
With Aaron Thompson leading the way, Cal State Fullerton on Monday joined a club that has grown far less exclusive over the last 10 years: Southern California teams that have defeated UCLA in nonconference basketball games at Pauley Pavilion. . . .
UC Irvine stood alone for years, Tod Murphy & Co. having stunned Reggie Miller and the Bruins in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament in 1986, but the fraternity in the last decade has mushroomed to include Cal State Northridge, Pepperdine, San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and now Fullerton. . . .
Since Pauley Pavilion's opening in 1965, by the way, UCLA has played only one nonconference game on the road against a Southern California opponent. . . .
In 1988, Jim Harrick's Bruins lost at UC Irvine when Kevin Floyd drove the length of the court for a game-winning layup. . . .
Jack Johnson and the Kings seem headed to the playoffs, Scott Niedermayer and the Ducks to a trade-deadline fire sale. . . .
The Dodgers produced a remarkable run of nine National League rookies of the year in 17 years, from Rick Sutcliffe in 1979 to Todd Hollandsworth in 1996, but have produced none since. . . .
The Angels' only rookie of the year was Tim Salmon, in 1993. . . .
Student opposition to a proposed on-campus football stadium at UCLA in the 1960s, several readers e-mailed to note, was led by the late Joel Siegel, who later gained fame as a movie critic on ABC TV's "Good Morning America." . . .
As a run-up to a student referendum on the stadium issue, reader Kurt Kemper of Sioux Falls, N.D., notes, student activists staged a protest touch football game in then-chancellor Franklin D. Murphy's outer office, with Siegel declaring, "He wants football on campus, we'll give him football on campus!" . . .
Ah, the '60s. . . .
The Sports Arena, a Southland cultural landmark that opened its doors 50 years ago, doesn't look a day over 80. . . .
Would it hurt to slap a coat of paint on it?