« August 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

September 26, 2008

Sports Beat, 9-26-08

--USC's 27-21 loss to Oregon State was absolutely stunning. I saw Oregon State lose to Penn State, and saw how they simply lacked the speed on defense to keep up with the Nittany Lions' Spread HD offense. Given USC's speed, it seemed reasonable to believe that the Trojans could points on the board, especially considering how they moved the ball against a very tough Ohio State defense.

How Oregon State slowed down USC is still a mystery to me. Somehow, every receiver looked covered. Somehow, the line broke down. Surprisingly, Mark Sanchez looked lackluster under pressure. And there wasn't much consistency to the running game.

Defensively, USC just couldn't stop Jacquizz Rodgers to save their lives. The Trojan defense may have a lot of big bodies and hard hitters, but none of them could get low enough to tackle the tiny Rodgers. His longest run was only 15 yards, but he consistently earned sizable gains on the ground, milked the clock, and kept the Trojan offense off the field.

When USC lost to Oregon State two years ago, it was because they committed too many turnovers. Last night, the Trojans got flat-out beat. It's a bit unfair that college football doesn't have a playoff system, and that it doesn't allow title contending teams to have a bad day. But considering how awful the Pac-10 has looked this season, it would take a tidal wave of losses like last year for USC to have any hope of a national championship.

In the meantime, the Trojans have to be very concerned about injuries. Shareece Wright is already out, but Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Zack Heberer, and Taylor Mays are also on the injury report.

--The Dodgers are in pretty good shape heading into the playoffs. They'll open on the road, but unless the Brewers win the Wild Card, they'll face an NL East team that will probably be operating on short rest with a pitching rotation that is out of sync. The Phillies and Mets both have something to play for this weekend, and both will have to deal with bad weather which could extend their seasons.

Right now, the Dodgers are looking to use Derek Lowe in Game 1 and Chad Billingsley in Game 2. As great as Greg Maddux is, he's done nothing this season to show he belongs on the playoff roster. Hiroki Kuroda will probably pitch Game 3, but if Joe Torre needs a fourth starter in the NLDS, then one would hope he'd pick Clayton Kershaw.

It seems like the Phillies or Mets would be the best the matchup for the Dodgers in the NLDS, and the Cubs would likely be the toughest. But frankly all of the NL playoff teams have holes and anything can happen in a short series.

--There's been a number of changes in LA sports talk radio over the past few weeks. KLAC 570 will replace Joe McDonnell's local show with a new syndicated program hosted by Tony Bruno. I have two reactions to this.

First, it's disappointing to see that KLAC now has only two original weekday shows that cover local sports. That's the same number as 710 AM ESPN Radio. Is there a belief that local sports fans aren't interested in talking about their teams on the air? Does LA have so many sports fans from out of town that we'd rather have more national sports shows? Or is this all about finances? I'm not sure of the answer, but I would love to listen to more local sports talk radio, particularly in the morning when Dan Patrick and Mike & Mike are currently heard.

Second, I think Tony Bruno is as good as any sports talk host in the country. I understand that people might not agree with that. But I'm thrilled he's back on the airwaves. His show offers a very unique perspective on the sports world and he's often very funny on the air. Also, while I'm not sure how much of his show will cover local sports, he will broadcast out of the KLAC studios in Burbank with Tim Cates who was on McDonnell's show. Bruno had a particularly revealing interview on Deadspin over the summer that I recommend reading.

As for McDonnell, he will almost certainly be on another station in LA soon enough. He's never off the air for too long here.

In other local sports talk, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton has stopped doing his Saturday show on KLAC, and he has also left XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego after he came to a "mutual" agreement with ClearChannel to not renew his contract. Reportedly, he appears to be moving to satellite radio and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's new station.

I, for one, will miss Hacksaw on the local airwaves. His shouting of random SoCal suburbs, his unbridled passion, his oddly pretentious comments, and his bizarre and seemingly made up rumors were all oddly endearing. Hacksaw was one of the few sports talk show hosts out there who really tried to carry his show on substance, yet his style was certainly one of a kind. It's a shame that Hacksaw has made some offensive comments on the air over the years and that he burned bridges with the San Diego Chargers, because he is one of the most underrated play-by-play announcers out there. He's done the Chargers, USC football, Seahawks, and several other teams over the years, and technically and stylistically, he's excellent at calling the action.

There was a time when Hacksaw dominated the local airwaves, when XTRA 690 was the only sports talk station here. The San Diego Union & Tribune has an interesting article measuring his impact on local sports radio. And of course, Hacksaw had some very unsurprising words for Jay Posner, who wrote the story.

“I had one more quote I wanted to give you,” Hamilton said. “Who wants to hire the best sports talk show host in America?”

In the meantime, you can listen to my own sports talk show, every Monday from 12 PM to 1 PM on KSCR 1560 AM and KSCR.org.

September 14, 2008

Sports Beat, 9-14-08

--USC's 35-3 victory over Ohio State was obviously impressive and it positions the Trojans as the BCS front-runners right now. Mark Sanchez is also the early leader in the Heisman race. I think it's a bit too early though for Trojans fans to book their tickets to Miami.

Ohio State is clearly unable to handle a team with speed on offense. Yet it was a bit unnerving how they dominated time of possession in the first-half and seemed to throw the ball effectively before holding penalties derailed them. USC may look like the best team in the country right now. But even with a blowout win over Ohio State, I actually think they could have played better.

--UCLA's 59-0 loss to BYU was absolutely stunning. This is the third time in the last calendar year that these two teams have played, and Dewayne Walker was on the sidelines for all three of those games. He should have known exactly what BYU would do offensively. And while Kevin Craft is not the long-term answer at UCLA, BYU isn't exactly known for its defense.

I think UCLA was hurt by the absence of Khalil Bell and any semblance of a running game. But the Bruins were probably a bit overconfident after defeating Tennessee.

--I'd be more impressed with Francisco Rodriguez's 58 saves if he didn't also have 6 blown saves. Sure it's great that the saves record is held by a SoCal baseball player. But it's more a product of circumstance than anything else. K-Rod is a very good closer, but the Angels have an amazing pitching staff, an offense that doesn't generate a ton of runs, and a first-class middle-relief corps that's helped create tons of save opportunities.

K-Rod is better than Bobby Thigpen, who did absolutely nothing after his 57-save season, but any team would be nuts to give Rodriguez a $15 million a year contract.

--The Dodgers are the hottest team in the National League right now thanks Manny Ramirez, and I think they're well-positioned to win the NL. It looks like the Dodgers will be motivated to give Ramirez a big deal in the off-season, and then they'll have to find a trade partner for Juan Pierre... even if they have to pick up some salary.

September 1, 2008

Sports Beat, Football Report Week 1

--I was in Charlottesville broadcasting USC's win over Virginia, and I was beyond impressed. With the exception of a few boneheaded penalties, the Trojans effectively played a flawless football game in their 52-7 victory over the Cavaliers.

Mark Sanchez showed no ill effects from his dislocated knee injury, and was smooth and poised in the pocket. He only had two bad throws by count, but for the most part, he made excellent decisions, he used the whole field, he threw to eight different receivers, and he even showed some mobility. Quite honestly, Sanchez looked about as good as John David Booty ever did, and he left no doubt that he's the leader of the team on offense.

But Sanchez didn't do it alone. The Trojan offensive line gave him plenty of time. Their run blocking was phenomenal. Joe McKnight shifted his feet as well as any running back I've seen in college. CJ Gable had a few great runs. Allen Bradford got some tough yards. Anthony McCoy had a few quality receptions. The entire receiving corps looked like they erased last year's woes with Vidal Hazelton proving to be a good possession receiver, Damian Williams living up to his potential as a transfer from Arkansas, Patrick Turner showing he has a nice rapport with Sanchez, and Ronald Johnson making two terrific catches.

Defensively, the Trojans stuffed the Virginia run, severely pressured Peter Lalich even though he was in shotgun formation for most of the game, and covered most of his receivers down the field. Let's also not forget that USC didn't exactly open their season against a weak mid-major or a I-AA school like many other BCS conference teams. They were willing to go across the country and play in some pretty awful humidity on the home field of a team that made the Gator Bowl last year. Virginia is in a bit of a transition year, but they still have a solid program. These kinds of wins make serious statements.

Next, USC turns their attention to Ohio State, who might be without Heisman candidate RB Chris Wells. Let's hope he's healthy enough to play. It would be great to see two of the best teams in college football go head to head at full strength, with no potential excuses for a loss.

--UCLA's dramatic 27-24 overtime win over Tennessee was both surprising and impressive. Virtually no one gave UCLA a chance with a new offense and a third-string QB going up against one of the better SEC programs. But the UCLA defense kept the Bruins in the game, thanks to some great pressure in the middle of their defensive line. Tennessee is also going with a new offensive system, and it showed they were trying to adjust, but credit the Bruins for frustrating Johnathan Crompton and forcing him to make bad throws. I was a bit surprised that the Volunteers didn't try to run the football more, where they had success.

The big story was obviously Kevin Craft, who had four interceptions in the first half, yet turned things around with an excellent fourth quarter. Craft showed he can make some high-quality underneath throws, but needs to work on his passes to the outside. He has a tendency to let the ball float too much in the air, but he did settle down late in the game and was much more efficient. UCLA is going to have to run the football better if they want to win more, especially if Khalil Bell is seriously injured, but I was very impressed with the fight that UCLA showed in light of losing three key players.

Rick Neuheisel's presence is already being felt as the Bruins seemed to play with an extra bit of spirit and toughness, despite being the lesser talented team. UCLA teams I've seen in the past might have quit, as their offensive line was beaten fairly well. But the Bruins displayed an impressive never-say-die attitude, and suddenly they look like a very dangerous team for anyone in the Pac-10 to play. This was also a great win for the conference, to get one over the stubborn and arrogant SEC, a conference that often claims its the best while simultaneously shying away from quality non-conference opponents.

--Majestic Realty VP John Semcken said earlier this week that he has "no doubt" an NFL team will play in Los Angeles in 2009, most likely at the Rose Bowl, in an interview with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Semcken has worked with Ed Roski on a proposed City of Industry football stadium plan that we've covered extensively on this site. In the meantime, a Minnesota Vikings executive told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that owner Zygi Wilf has turned down overtures to move his team to the site.

It's really difficult to know exactly what is going with teams potentially moving, but the Vikings did seem a little less likely than potential suitors such as the Chargers, Jaguars, Bills, and Raiders to move to LA.