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Forget the NFL, L.A. Leads Field in Football

The nation’s largest city without professional football trudges on today, idly, remorsefully, awash in the depression of another late-autumn weekend absent the greatest game on Earth.

Sigh.

Guess we’ll just have to settle for USC-UCLA.

Guess we’ll just have to make do with the greatest neighborhood college football rivalry in the country, played by two of the best teams in the country, occurring in one of the country’s most historic stadiums.

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Three of the probable finalists for the Heisman Trophy will be on the same field.

The possible top two picks in next spring’s NFL draft will be in the same huddle.

Football’s best coach is on one sideline, a national coach-of-the-year candidate is on the other, and all Bush is breaking out in the middle.

The teams have gone a combined 20-1, featuring nine comeback victories, eight games of at least 50 points, and one glorious October day when a combined 175,032 from our sad, sacked town showed up to watch them.

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History is on the line, drama is at the gate, and across the nation, fans are tapping on the remote, crowding around television sets to witness this strange spectacle of great football being played in a town that is nationally renowned for not having any football.

Sigh.

Guess we’re just killing time, waiting for the Chargers.

*

Enough, already.

Enough about how nobody in this town cares about a sport that makes fat good.

Enough about how folks here view football only as something you toss on the beach.

The perception is old, tired and, as today so colorfully illustrates, dead wrong.

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Los Angeles a bad football town?

Los Angeles has better football at more levels than the heart of Texas and the heat of Florida combined.

Los Angeles is a sweeter football home than Alabama, with more football mines than Pennsylvania.

You want to bet on the best football town in America, I’ll spot you those three hours on Sunday and take Los Angeles.

Despite its popularity with gamblers and fantasy players, the NFL is the most mercenary and dull in-person segment of football. This town’s working-class folks will never miss a sport that costs tax dollars, and its entertainment folks will never campaign to resurrect a live show that looks better on television.

You want football? Los Angeles already has football, better than any other town has it, and today is only the tip of the Gatorade cooler.

Yes, Los Angeles has two of the top 11 college football teams in the country, including, in USC, a team that may be completing the best three-year stretch in the history of the sport.

But did you know it is also home to what was the sixth-ranked team in Division lll, Occidental? Also the nationally top-ranked junior college team, College of the Canyons? And also the nationally second-ranked high school team, Mission Viejo, which lost for only the second time in 69 games Friday?

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I confess, I don’t know much about the Southland’s junior football, but where else could your child ride to games on a tricked-out bus owned by Coach Snoop Dogg?

This still being a star town, the teams are often overshadowed by the names.

Yes, Los Angeles has the defending Heisman Trophy winner in USC’s Matt Leinart, this year’s probable winner in USC’s Reggie Bush and a deserving finalist in UCLA’s Drew Olson.

And if they stay in school, USC’s LenDale White and UCLA’s Maurice Drew will surely be two of the finalists next year.

But did you also know that from the Los Angeles area hails a kid who might win the Division I-AA version of the Heisman?

His name is Erik Meyer, a La Mirada High graduate who plays quarterback for Eastern Washington and is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award.

Then there are the Southland’s national high school stars, as numerous around here as doughnut shops.

Last season, Long Beach Poly led the nation in prep alumni in the NFL, with six. Also in the area are the country’s top-ranked prep linebacker, Allen Bradford of Colton, and the top-ranked tight end, Konrad Reuland of Mission Viejo.

Although the two hottest players in today’s game are from out of town -- Bush from San Diego and Olson from the hills above Oakland -- coaches Pete Carroll and Karl Dorrell believe they could build championship teams without ever stepping on an airplane, what with 27 of today’s 44 starters from the Los Angeles area.

The football capital of the world has landmarks everywhere.

Where else could you drive to a college game in which a guy gains 513 all-purpose yards?

Then drive to another college game in which a guy throws six touchdown passes?

Then finish your experience at a high school game in which a quarterback completes three of four passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns ... and her name is Miranda?

All of which makes a prediction on today’s college showdown rather easy.

The winner, once again, will be Los Angeles.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.


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