--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.