“College Football-Some Good-Some Bad”
It has been a season of surprises and disappointments in college football here in Southern California. A couple of good teams, a couple of struggling teams, and fans staying away in droves.
SAN DIEGO STATE….We’ve come to expect greatness with the product that Rocky Long puts on the field, but when they lose we come away disappointed. The Aztecs are (6-2), but haven’t played well in 3-weeks, since that emotion filled win at Boise State. Yes they beat Air Force, struggled but edged San Jose, then fell apart at Nevada. A backup QB-Ryan Agnew, a cadre of young running backs led by Chase Jasmin, and backup fullbacks have held their own as the club waits for veteran QB-Christian Chapman and lead back Juwan Washington to return to play. What was supposed to a strength, a rock solid offensive line, hasn’t played all that well this mid season. And the defense, which used to stuff run games, chase quarterbacks, gets sacks and turnovers, isn’t doing it this year compared to years gone by. Maybe it’s the youth across the roster. Maybe it’s the lack of big play wide receivers. Maybe it’s too much stress on the run game. There’s still another tough road game to come, at Fresno. And yet a (9-3) record would be solid. Oddly, fans aren’t rallying around the program yet, despite the defection of the Chargers. They announce crowds of 30,000 or so at the stadium. Insiders say SDSU routinely inflates the crowd numbers, who show up. it is a strange relationship in our community.
USD…..One of the best 1-AA programs in the country, a non scholarship program, that gets post season bids, and has twice beaten scholarship schools in the post-season playoffs. It is a unique atmosphere at the school. They get degrees from a fine institution. The do put some players into the NFL. And quarterback Anthony Lawrence, a brilliant star at Grossmont High, stayed home to go to USD, and has now rewritten all the passing records in the Torero book, going over the 11,000-yard passing mark. They play in the Pioneer League, a loose knit group of non-scholarship schools scattered across the Midwest and South. Dayton and Davidson are among their competitors, but the town has not responded despite the great job longtime coach Dale Lindsey has done up on the hill. Last Saturday’s home game, where they won their 23rd straight home game, drew just 1,047 fans to Torero Stadium.
UCLA….The excitement over the hiring of Chip Kelly has worn off. Reality has set in. It will take time to rally the once proud Bruins program. And now some truth comes front and center, what Kelly ran at Oregon, when he captured the fancy of the nation with his video game offense, cannot be reproduced. They don’t have a run game. They are force feeding a freshman quarterback Dorian Robinson. They don’t play much defense. This (2-6) record, that started 0-4), is the worst mark since 1943 And crowds at the Rose Bowl have disappeared, They drew the smallest turnout since 1997, this past Saturday, some 41,848 showed up. This was a program that averaged 76,650 in 2014. A long road back surely.
USC….Clay Helton came on board and did well early, but the Trojans aren’t doing well now. When was USC at (4-4) last? A while back, almost 2-decades back. They are playing JT Daniels, an 18-year old freshman, who got hurt just a couple of weeks ago. The top running back is a transfer from tiny UC-Davis. They don’t seem to have put many players in the NFL in recent years. And the Trojan faithful isn’t real happy with the product on the field, or even the new look to the renovated LA Coliseum. And to top it off, they just played a home game last weekend, drawing just 47,406, the smallest turnout since 2001. The Pete Carroll, USC-Texas era, and crowds of 90,000 seem long ago. USC, not what it was prior.
It’s strange. San Diego fans, displaced Chargers followers, aren’t supporting the only team in town, SDSU. USD’s leadership cannot figure out how to market a really good small college program. In LA, they don’t like USC’s head coach, and at UCLA alums are wondering out loud what they hired in this new coach. Unless these teams start winning, there will get empty seats, and lots of them up in LA. What a strange fall this has turned into.