--USC looked absolutely listless for three quarters before freshman running back Joe McKnight ignited the Trojans, en route to a 20-13 win over Arizona. Decimated by injuries on the offensive line (Sam Baker, Zack Heberer, Kris O'Dowd, Charles Brown, and Chilo Rachal, and Matt Spanos still not 100%), at running back (CJ Gable out for the season, Stafon Johnson out with a foot injury), at quarterback (John David Booty), and on defense (Ray Maualuga and Kevin Ellison), the Trojans didn't appear to be doing any of the little things that propelled them to prominence in recent years. But when Joe McKnight began getting carries and returning punts, he lifted the spirits of the entire team, and the Trojans were finally playing with passion.
USC still has a great deal of work to do. While McKnight's play was encouraging, it's way too soon (and unfair) to call him the next Reggie Bush. It appears that Mark Sanchez is in line to start again next week, and while he did make some plays, his kamikaze style of playing quarterback makes him vulnerable to mistakes. Also, USC got virtually every break against Arizona, and teams like Cal, Oregon, and Arizona State can do more on offense than just throw screen passes. But with seemingly every highly-ranked college football program losing games these days, USC still has realistic BCS hopes.
--The Lakers looked awful in two preseason losses to the Warriors in Hawaii. Some are already pressing panic buttons. But while the team's play hasn't offered much reason for optimism, it's easy to forget that Phil Jackson-coached always look terrible in the preseason. Exhibition games don't matter.
In the meantime, Jackson defended his owner Jerry Buss against comments from Kevin Garnett. For whatever reason, Garnett claims he had a choice of going to LA (reports were that Minnesota that declined a deal with the Lakers), and the new Celtic questioned the quality of Lakers ownership. We all know that Kevin Garnett is a great player, but he's only won two playoff series in his life, whereas Jerry Buss has won 8 NBA championships (more than any other active owner in professional sports).
"Where did he get his information from?" Jackson said. "What does [his] statement mean? Does he even know our organization?. . . . I don't think anybody has a better winning record as an owner than Jerry Buss. . . . He doesn't want to win? I just kind of brush that off as not understanding the situation."
--People who have been hoping beyond hope that LA will get a football team (like me), remember 1999. That was the year Houston beat out LA for the right to get an expansion team. Eight years later, it's possible that LA has a new rival in the NFL sweepstakes. Toronto Argonauts (CFL) owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski are reportedly interested in buying an NFL team and moving it to Toronto. Additionally, last fall Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, announced he was teaming with cable entrepreneur Ted Rogers in hopes of bringing the NFL to Canada's largest city.
Much of the focus has been on the Buffalo Bills, whose 89-year old owner Ralph Wilson has said he won't sell the team in his lifetime, and he won't give the team to his kids either. Earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Buffalo for Monday Night Football, and he commented on the Bills situation.
"Mr. Wilson has done a great job of that and we're hoping he's with us for a number of years going forward," Goodell said. "But whoever owns the team is going to have to make sure the team stays viable here and that becomes the real issue — how do we continue to keep the community support here?"
Asked what he'd tell Bills fans concerned that the team may eventually move, Goodell said: "Keep supporting the Bills because we believe they're great fans and their support will make certain that won't happen."
--Speaking of the NFL, many local football fans are upset that CBS is showing the Chargers-Raiders game in LA, instead of the Cowboys-Patriots game which is a potential Super Bowl Preview. Personally, I want to watch them both.
--A crowd of 5,000 at the Galen Center saw the first Midnight Madness for USC basketball since 2002. Across town, the UCLA Bruins, coming off of two-straight Final Four appearances, opted not to host a Midnight Madness. Bruin fans will need to wait a bit longer to catch a glimpse of highly-touted recruit Kevin Love.
--Edson Buddle came off the bench and scored in the 78th minute last night to give the LA Galaxy a dramatic 2-1 win over Toronto FC before a sellout crowd at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy have come from nowhere to re-enter the MLS playoff race, and David Beckham may be healthy enough to come back and play in either Thursday night's home finale against New York or Saturday's regular season finale at Chicago.
LA's other MLS team, Chivas USA (which has the best record in the Western Conference), got some bad news yesterday. Chivas USA coach Preki announced that star forward Ante Razov will be out for four to six weeks with a knee sprain, meaning he may not play again this season.