Advertisement
Share

Bruins May Be in a Gutty Little State of Denial

It was Pacific 10 Conference media day, USC Coach Pete Carroll fielding questions about possibly winning a third consecutive national title, UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell expressing hope his team might beat San Diego State.

“Business as usual,” Carroll said, although I don’t think he was referring to the Bruins’ lofty goal of beating a Mountain West doormat.

“It would be a tremendous step for the guys to get to 1-0,” Dorrell said, and I know I got goose bumps just thinking about such a thing. “They haven’t been 1-0 the past two years.”

My Trojans, of course, hope to go 13-0 for the second consecutive year, the season ending in a Jan. 4 Rose Bowl win for another national title, which raises the question -- just how big is that gap right now between the Trojans and the Bruins?

“There is no gap,” Bruin running back Maurice Drew said, and for the record I offered him the opportunity to take that back before making fun of him.

Advertisement

“We put our pants on just like they do,” Drew said, although playing sometimes as if they have fallen around the Bruins’ ankles (see Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl).

“Every game on Saturday a team can lose,” Drew said, and the Bruins have proven that far too often (see last season’s belly-flop against Washington State).

“Everyone starts off with a clean slate,” Drew persisted. “I don’t see [USC] being better than UCLA. You put us against the Patriots, and I’m still going to think that we’ve got a chance to win.”

I suggested a reality check might be in order, and Drew said he’d be waiting for me after each game, pointing to the Bruins’ schedule in the school’s media guide, his finger running down the page until it stopped on USC, and suggesting it will mean something when it comes to the final standings.

My finger stopped at Oklahoma, the third game, and said I’d be right there in front of Drew’s locker for the first big reality check.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” said Drew, which means I’ll have to go to a UCLA game. I better get my USC aloha shirt cleaned and pressed so I’ll have something to wear.

*

USC, WITH 410 points, was the unanimous pick to win the Pac-10 in the preseason media poll. The Bruins placed fifth, which would put them in the Las Vegas Bowl again.

“Nooooo,” Dorrell shouted in mock disgust.

The poll has California No. 2 with 300 points, Arizona State next with 296, Oregon with 290 and UCLA at 282, “which will tick off our players,” Dorrell said.

Too bad no one thought about telling the Bruins they had Wyoming ranked ahead of them before last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.

*

I ASKED Angel Manager Mike Scioscia whom he would pick to finish second to USC, and he said, “UCLA, because of the number of six-year seniors it has.” Hard to tell whether he was being serious, or auditioning for Page 2, which isn’t too farfetched given his team’s recent play.

*

OREGON COACH Mike Bellotti said 90 players remained in Eugene this summer to prepare for the season -- with USC being the Ducks’ first conference foe.

USC hasn’t played the Ducks since 2002, and although Carroll has dominated the Pac-10, he’s 1-1 against Oregon. Watch out!

In fact the three teams picked to finish right behind the Trojans will have home-field advantage against USC. When I mentioned that to Carroll, he shrugged.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “It’s not something we even factor into our thinking. If we find that competitiveness that we had on the practice field a year ago, our performance will take care of itself.”

A short time later, Dorrell told the media, “UCLA is ready to make that next step,” and he said that means “to have in our program a level of competitiveness across the board and an understanding all jobs are at stake.”

I wonder where he got that idea.

*

CARROLL WAS the star of the day, telling everyone, “I’m as pumped up as I have ever been,” which means he sounded like a tape recorder on fast forward.

I asked Carroll whether he knew of anyone who talks faster than he does, and as you might expect, he was quick with an answer: “Lou Holtz.”

“Lou once told me, ‘I talk fast and you better learn to listen fast.’ ”

For those who can’t keep up with Carroll, there is always www.petecarroll.com, which will be launched Aug. 21.

Simon Tikhman, president of Interactive Athlete, said the site would provide daily updates, including weekly online chats with Carroll -- presuming someone can type that fast -- for an annual fee of $49.95. Carroll will donate all proceeds to his favorite charities.

*

CARROLL WAS asked to do a series of taped promotions for 1540, which broadcasts the Trojan games, and he dutifully went through them, promoting such on-air personalities as Petros Papadakis and Fred Roggin. When he finished a promo urging folks to listen to Tony Bruno, he seemed to reach his limit: “I never even listen to the guy,” he said.

*

I HEARD about Francisco Rodriguez’s control problems on the road, so when I saw him looking intently at a huge spiral book before Tuesday night’s game, I figured he was sizing up the scouting report on the Orioles. On closer inspection, I discovered he was looking at a swimsuit calendar. Wild indeed.

*

I WOULD never suggest such a thing, but Page 2 reader Richard Turnage e-mailed to ask: “Think there’s any chance the Dodgers can convince Hee-Seop Choi to ‘accidentally’ ingest some steroids? Just a thought.”

*

TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Gil & Smoochy:

“I was at a Dodger game and I noticed two very smart looking 9 or 10 year old boys walking towards me, both wearing white t-shirts with, in big bold letters, ‘I HATE T.J. SIMERS’ written on the front. Do you think Mr. Chuckles was behind it all?”

You’re probably talking about our neighbor’s kids.

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


Advertisement