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An Awkward Comparison

As you know both Scott Wolf and Brian Dohn, beat writers for USC and UCLA respectively, write blogs for the Daily News. Recently they have been having open forums for their readers to ask questions, which they take the time to answer.

I have perused both, though not regularly and I clearly missed this exchange (right at the top) from the other day:

2. What kind of pressure is there on Karl Dorrell, in your opinion, to achieve any of the goals Dan Guerrero and Dorrell himself placed on him when he was hired (win pac-10, play in BCS, beat SC), especially given the perfect storm this year of a large number of returning starters, large number seniors, and soft road schedule?

Second answer: I think anything less than eight wins and Dorrell will feel enormous pressure. The one thing about it, and I know UCLA fans hate hearing this, is the playing field is not level when it comes to USC, and that must be brought into the equation. In order to win the Pac-10, play in a BCS, UCLA will likely have to beat USC. If UCLA fails to do that, they will join the ranks of nearly every other program in the country. Because USC is so darn good, and because its academic requirements aren't as strong as UCLA's, I think comparing UCLA to USC in football is like trying to compare USC basketball with UCLA basketball. It doesn't make sense to me, even though they are rivals.

He's kidding right? 8 wins? But that's not the worst of it.

There are a whole lot of ways to look at this and none of them good, regardless of which side you are on. Glaring right out there is the issue of academic standards. I have heard time and again that that ucla's standards are higher than that of USC's, but ucla like USC uses a modified system for some of its athletes so I'm not sure if the "level playing field" comment holds a lot of water. Yes, SC may have more students on a modified standard but not that many and if its so disproportionate it obviously didn't matter last December. To me that's a cheap excuse for a mediocre coach leading a program that is sputtering to say the least.

But obviously that's not the one that will generate the most outrage: I think comparing UCLA to USC in football is like trying to compare USC basketball with UCLA basketball. It doesn't make sense to me, even though they are rivals.

I don't know who should be more offended; USC for being compared to that pathetic football program from across town while they are on a terrific run, or ucla with having to endure the comparisons of SC's hoops program to a program that is on the cusp of potentially winning a few more championships.

I like the fact that the crew from across town has their panties in a wad over Dohn's comments, but that doesn't mean that he is right. The fact is SC has a long way to go in hoops, though this past season's showing could be a glimpse of what is yet to come. I think USC has a better chance at winning a basketball championship than ucla does a football championship as long as Dorrell is the coach over there.

Here's why, in football ucla has to get through SC in order to win a Pac 10 title. That's not likely as long as the bruins have to contend with not only SC but Cal and Oregon as well. In basketball all SC needs is a hot hand to find itself in contention for a title. They could be swept by the bruins in the regular season and still get into the tourney, just like they did earlier this year and get a good run into the tournament. More important even if they don't win an NCAA Title, a regular showing in the tournament, in the near term, that continues to keep SC in the national spotlight will continue to drive them nuts across town and that's a sport in-and-of itself. 8 wins is not enough for Dorrell to keep his job, he needs 10 wins minimum and an appearance in a BCS Bowl Game. The bruins won't be in the national discussion unless he lives up to the minimum standards that they have set across town. Even knowledgeable bruin fans concede that a win against SC without a Pac 10 title and BCS appearance will be the end of Dorrell, but that's what they want so that is probably what they will get.

I can see why they are pissed at Dohn's awkward comparison. If I was in their shoes I'd be pissed and offended too but that is not half as pointless as discussing ucla football in the same breath, let alone the same conversation, as USC football, at least until ucla can make consistent season to season results with the talent that they have. I mean there is no comparison...PERIOD. Sure they got their 13-9 win in December and that sometimes happens in rivalries, but the momentum was promptly squandered against FSU and most knowledgeable bruins fans know better than to judge the success or failure of a program on just one win.

Another reason they are pissed about the comparison is that it puts SC Basketball on the same level as ucla football and you know that drives them nuts. Let's be fair here, there was a time when ucla football was highly regarded. Their 8 game win streak against us was a tough one to swallow for USC fans. But that was in a time when winning the Pac 10 meant a trip to the Rose Bowl, nothing more unless you were undefeated and in the hunt for an MNC. Sure, that win for them in December was an elimination game for us but SC responded and absolutely thrashed Michigan while Dorrell and his underachieving staff fell flat on their face against lackluster FSU team. Couple that with sweeping SC in hoops then flopping in the Pac 10 Tourney and then having SC go on a pretty good run in the tournament that gave SC a lot of press while ucla forged ahead only to lose to Florida again without a lot of positive press and it only makes Dohn's awkward comparison sting just a little bit more.

One of the few rational commenters over there hit the nail on the head.

Ucladj89 sums it up:

nail on the head

[...] Look, as much as it sucks, USC football is way ahead of UCLA right now, for reasons that we all know and don't bear repetition. Until the talent improves and coaching changes/improves, it will be hard to beat USC regularly-certainly harder than it was than in the period 1980-2000.

But the fact that USC currently has superior talent and coaching does not explain why we have been unable to place at least 2nd in the conference since KD took over; it fails to explain why UCLA, the PAC-10's historically 2nd best program (and arguably the best program from 1980-2000) has been unable to displace Oregon or Cal from 2nd place and has fallen to a middle-of-the-pack program. Even when KD went 10-2 in '05 we only finished third in the conference.

Hope Dohn gives a response to that question.

by ucladj89 on Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 12:35:36 PM EDT
[ Parent | Reply to This ]

I'm not surprised that dj89 cuts through the crap with a well thought out rational view on things. That has always been his style here on CC and he represents bruin fans well.

A win against ones rival is essentially meaningless unless there is something else at stake. It's a temporary high and they, ucla, can rationalize it all they want by trying to claim it was great win in spite of Dorrell, but in the end their 15 minutes went by awful quick. They may have been relevant then but they aren't now no matter which way you slice it.