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On the defensive over UCLA-USC football rivalry

Chris Dufresne takes time out (he gets two per half) each Friday during the season to answer questions on college football.

November 28, 2009

Unbuckling the mailbag:

Question: How can you in all good conscience, being an L.A. writer, ever leave the USC-UCLA cross-city, cross-family annual internecine battle royal out of your top five?

Leigh Hess

Long Beach

Answer: There is no such thing as a top-five rivalry that starts at 10 p.m. in the East on a cable station. UCLA and USC used to be a top-five rivalry, and I'm hoping it can get back to that before ESPN moves the game to a Wednesday night as part of a double header that also features the annual internecine battle between the top two schools in Conference USA.

Q: Since you do not regard UCLA a rival of USC, I guess you won't mind if we win Saturday?

James Ciglan

A: Go for it. And should UCLA reach 48 points against USC on Saturday, it would be one more point than the basketball team scored against Portland on Thursday.

Q: You don't even put the USC-UCLA rivalry in your top 5? Ridiculous. You weren't born here, were you?

Probably from Michigan? Ohio? Texas?

Jim Post

A: Would you believe I was born in Michigan, Ohio and Texas?

Q: This game (UCLA-USC) has been played numerous times at 7 p.m. I know; I've been to many of them.

Steve R. Nelson

A: You must have had a great seat being the only guy in an empty stadium at 7 p.m.

I thumbed through the USC media guide and found one night game in the UCLA series, in 1975, and that wasn't a 7 p.m. start.

Curious, who won all those games in your imagination while you were sitting alone at the 50-yard line?

Q: Unfortunately I have to go to San Diego this weekend. Can you tell me what channel the game is on?

A: There are so many now I can't keep track. Your best shot is to paste all your available channel numbers on a roulette wheel, give it a spin and see if you get lucky and hit on USC-UCLA.

Q: Your Top 5 Rivalry article was a joke. Does your self-promotional interest as a "national" sportswriter necessitate the need to slam your own backyard to prove that you don't have a West Coast bias? Michigan-Ohio State is now a joke and has been for many, many years.

Shame on you.

Donald T. Smith Jr.

Long Beach

A: You must be measuring the blandness of Michigan-Ohio State in dog years.

In 2006, many, many years ago (three), No. 1 Ohio State played No. 2 Michigan in Columbus.

There was nary a whiff of drama involved, other than former Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler dying on the day before the game and a local rock band known as "The Dead Schembechlers" having to cancel their concert that Friday night in Columbus.

I was standing outside the theater when the manager came out with a ladder and started taking down all the "Schembechler" letters off the marquee.

He told me there was no way he was going to let this show go on.

And then the game itself was a sleeping pill, a 42-39 snoozer.

Q: Two colleges just played their 126th game. All players were walk-ons. Ever hear of Yale-Harvard?

John O'Donnell

Yale class of '61

Los Angeles

A: Very familiar with Harvard because of the movie "The Paper Chase," which drove me away from attending law school into the intellectually stimulating world of sports writing, where I now answer a mailbag on Fridays.

Harvard, now there's a school -- so prestigious and dripping with Kennedys.

Yale, honestly, does not ring a bell I can hear from the student center.

Has it been around long?

Is it located in the continental U.S. or is it one of those offshore programs?

Can you get a degree by mail?

Is it affiliated in any way with the University of Phoenix?

Q: Any list of "Top College Rivalries" that doesn't include Harvard-Yale is suspect. No . . . worse than that, it is completely without merit.

Brad Dellarte

A: Maybe I could get into this series if the Harvard student newspaper could get its facts straight.

In the 1968 game, for example, Harvard rallied to tie Yale after trailing, 29-13, with 42 seconds left. But the headline in the Crimson was wrong. It read "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29."

Q: Where is the mention of the holy war between Utah and BYU?


A: The tough part about doing rivalry rankings is that you're always going to leave a good one out, and Utah-BYU should have been included on the list.

I was at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2004 when Utah clinched a Bowl Championship Series bowl game bid with a home victory against Brigham Young.

Standing on the field near the end of the game, I looked in the stands and spotted a Utah fan holding up a sign that read:

"Where's Your God Now?"

It was chilly that night, but that was really cold.

Q: How can you leave out the California-Stanford rivalry and yet you include Army-Navy? No body, I mean nobody, except people in the military, care about Army-Navy. It is the most overrated game in America.

Michael Rath

A: I would argue Army and Navy play for more important stakes, and I try never to miss it. The game has been moved to Dec. 12 this year. I don't remember the Cal-Stanford winner ever helping us win a war.

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