The Sports Report: USC and UCLA will need help to reach CFP rankings top four

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, and USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times; Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From J. Brady McCollough: With Tuesday’s release of the first College Football Playoff top 25 rankings, we can officially start thinking about the road to SoFi Stadium for the CFP national championship on Monday, Jan. 9.

And most important: What is the path to the title game for USC and UCLA, which have slipped into the top 10 of some of the polls with one month left in the season?

The selection committee confirmed what hopeful Trojans and Bruins fans already knew — the winner of the Nov. 19 crosstown rivalry showdown is going to need some help to be one of the four teams selected to the bracket with a shot at SoFi glory. The good news? The machinations are not totally unreasonable.

USC is ranked No. 9, the Trojans, in Lincoln Riley’s first season, making their return to the CFP top 10 for the first time since 2017.


UCLA is ranked No. 12, making its return to the CFP top 15 for the first time since 2014 under Jim Mora.

USC is looking up at: 1. Tennessee (8-0); 2. Ohio State (8-0); 3. Georgia (8-0); 4. Clemson (8-0); 5. Michigan (8-0); 6. Alabama (7-1); 7. Texas Christian (8-0); No. 8 Oregon (7-1). No. 10 Louisiana State (6-2) and No. 11 Mississippi (7-1) are slotted between the Trojans and Bruins.

“Most of the time, I don’t even know what it is, because it doesn’t matter right now,” Riley said Tuesday. “It does not matter one bit. You can go be ranked whatever, you go lose, it don’t matter. You keep winning, it takes care of itself.”

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From Dan Woike: Darvin Ham gave Pau Gasol the floor to speak to his team Tuesday, hoping that the former Lakers great and NBA champion would impart the same values about winning that Ham has tried to instill since becoming the team’s coach.

It was a chance to, again, build credibility — the challenge that every coach undertakes with his team. It was a calculated chance to use the team’s past successes to shape the team’s present and future.

“When you have guys who’ve achieved what he’s achieved in his individual career, some of the great teams he’s been on, whether it’s the Lakers or the Spanish national team, as far as the great Spurs teams, for him to come in and the words he shared are the words they hear us saying every day,” Ham said. “Being competitive, embracing the adversity, being together, communicating — like all these words we use with our guys every day. And some of them are themes of who we want to be and what we want to get back to being.


“So it just reaffirms to these guys that we’re not crazy out of our minds.”


Nets part ways with coach Steve Nash after poor start, more controversy


From Ryan Kartje: Last summer, when USC first divided into separate weight-lifting sessions, Justin Dedich made a request. The redshirt senior and soon-to-be captain wanted to switch into the same group as redshirt freshman Mason Murphy.

Dedich had seen something special in the young offensive tackle, and he was not the only one within USC’s veteran offensive line group. Several months later, when Murphy made his first start as USC’s right tackle Saturday against Arizona, Dedich and redshirt junior lineman Jonah Monheim both referred to Murphy as the Trojans’ “most talented” player up front.

“That kid has a lot in front of him,” Dedich said, “and he’s working to get it.”

“There’s no doubt,” Monheim added, “he’s such a talented kid.”


From Kevin Baxter: What happens when the world’s game collides with America’s game in a car-crazed city like Los Angeles?

We’re about to find out.

On Saturday, the MLS Cup final matching LAFC against the Philadelphia Union will kick off before a sellout crowd of more than 22,500 just after 1 p.m. at Banc of California Stadium, which is less than a football field away from the Coliseum, where ninth-ranked USC will kick off its homecoming game against Cal at 7:30 p.m. That game is expected to draw more than 55,000.

And that looming footballmageddon raises one very important question: Where is everyone going to park?

USC gets priority for parking at Exposition Park, so there will be no spaces in or around either stadium available for fans attending the MLS Cup final. LAFC is encouraging fans to park at a Metro station and take the Expo Line to Expo Park/USC station, which is a short walk from Banc of California Stadium. The Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit Lines 910/950 to I-110/37th St. Station is another option. You can plan your trip with the Transit app or online trip planner.

Fans can also park in Lot 1 at Dodger Stadium and take a shuttle bus to Exposition Park. Lot 1, located off Sunset Boulevard, will open at 9 a.m., and there is no charge for parking or the shuttle service, which will make its last scheduled trip from Banc of California to Dodger Stadium at 6 p.m. Uber and Lyft also will be permitted to access the park dropoff spot at the corner of Vermont and Exposition.


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Roope Hintz’s second score of the game punctuated a three-goal flurry in 91 seconds and the Dallas Stars used four-goal outburst in the second period to beat the Kings 5-2 on Tuesday night.

Hintz’s goal at 10:31 of the second followed scores by Jason Robertson at 9:01 and Tyler Seguin at 10:17. Joe Pavelski added Dallas’ fourth goal of the period at 18:37.

Kevin Fiala and Arthur Kaliyev scored for the Kings, who were coming of a win at St. Louis a night earlier with four second-period goals. Cal Petersen made 35 saves for Los Angeles.


Bryce Harper hammered his sixth postseason home run, whispered an assist to Alec Bohm before his solo shot and the Philadelphia Phillies tied a World Series record with five homers to rout the Houston Astros 7-0 Tuesday night and take a 2-1 Series lead.

Brandon Marsh also homered, and Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins hit back-to-back shots in the fifth inning to chase Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. Philadelphia used the long ball to end the long wait for its first World Series home win since Game 5 of the 2009 World Series.

Those Phillies couldn’t finish the job.

Ranger Suarez tossed three-hit ball over five shutout innings and inched this year’s team closer to getting it done.


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1895 — Belmar, ridden by Fred Taral, wins in the Belmont Stakes by a head over favorite Counter Tenor. The race is run under the jurisdiction of the Westchester Racing Association, because the New York Jockey Club had closed out its affairs.

1958 — Chicago and Los Angeles establish an NFL attendance record when 90,833 fill the L.A. Coliseum to see the Rams beat the Bears 41-35.

1960 — New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris wins the American League MVP.

1985 — Gordon Brown has 214 yards and quarterback Steve Gage has 206 to become the first teammates to each rush for more than 200 yards as Tulsa beats Wichita State 42-26.

1986 — Minnesota’s Tommy Kramer passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns but the Vikings still lose to the Washington Redskins in overtime, 44-38.

1990 — The Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 162-158 at McNichols Arena. The 320 points set an NBA record for the most points scored by two teams in a non-overtime game.

1991 — Nevada makes the biggest comeback in NCAA football history, overcoming a 35-point deficit in the third quarter and rallying to beat Weber State 55-49.

1996 — A.J. Pitorino of Hartwick rushes for an NCAA all-divisions record 443 yards on 45 carries in a 42-14 win over Waynesburg.

2006 — Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom becomes the first goalie in the modern era, which began in 1943, to win twice without starting. Backstom replaces an ill Manny Fernandez and stops all 19 shots he faces over the final two periods as the Wild rally for a 5-2 victory over Vancouver. Backstrom relieved Fernandez after a three-goal first period against Nashville on Oct. 7 before Minnesota came back for a 6-5 victory.

2007 — Washington misses all 16 of its 3-point shots, an NBA record for most attempts without making one, in a 103-83 loss at Boston.

2013 — Quinn Epperly of Princeton sets an NCAA record by opening with 29 straight completions, and accounts for 401 total yards and six TDs in a 53-20 win over Cornell.

2014 — Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger throws for six touchdowns for the second consecutive week, setting an NFL mark in a 43-23 win over Baltimore. Roethlisberger’s 12 touchdown passes over the last two games breaks the mark of 11 set by Tom Flores for Oakland in 1963 and matched by New England’s Tom Brady in 2007.

2016 — The Chicago Cubs win their first World Series championship since 1908 when Ben Zobrist hits a go-ahead double in the 10th inning, beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in a thrilling Game 7 delayed by rain early. Chicago is the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

2021 — The Atlanta Braves win their 4th World Series title in franchise history beating the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 6 for a 4-2 series victory.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

The Cubs win the World Series. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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