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Expectations vs. Results

First, let me say Happy New Year to all of you! I hope you all enjoy the long weekend...

From the L.A.Times

I got a kick out of Desmond Howard this morning picking USC as his top underachiever for the 2009 season.

I had College GameDay on in the background as I was working on project when I heard him make his call. I yelled something at the TV screen from across the room that I hope my daughter didn't hear me say upstairs.

What makes this so laughable is that the press sets the narrative so they also set the expectations. It is pretty hard for a team like USC, who has had one of the most incredible runs ever in all of college football, to stay at the top especially after all the talent that was lost from the 2008 season. SC has been able to plug and play new talent almost seemingly at will but this season was the perfect storm of challenges that finally took its toll.

Howard's claim is misinformed because, 1) he has always been an SC hater and 2) that he didn't quantify his remarks. I am surprised that in his role as an "analyst" that he didn't see all the land mines SC faced in 2009. Freshman QB, replacing the whole front 7 on defense, new coaches and a daunting road schedule lined the stars up perfectly for an off season. Nevermind that SC went on the road to a number of tough road venues and came out with wins with that same freshman QB.

Whether or not you agree with the reasons as to how SC had a down year, the fact remains that SC is held to higher standard because of its huge run of success. I don't know what the next season holds...probably a loss or two but I don't think we will see 4 losses.

This dovetails nicely into something I saw this morning... (emphasis added)

PAINTER: L.A.'s football monopoly not over, but gap is closing

UCLA's football team is ringing in the new year with realistic hopes and dreams.

No longer are the promises Rick Neuheisel made two years ago just words.

UCLA's football team is synonymous with improvement. UCLA won on the road at Tennessee, overcame a five-game losing streak, emerged a come-from-behind winner a the frigid EagleBank Bowl in Washington, and won four of the past five games.

And UCLA has started to close the gap with USC.

Ever so slightly.

"It's going to close even more," said UCLA safety Rahim Moore, who has a national-best 10 interceptions. "We're going to do some things that people might not think we can do."

UCLA is not USC. Don't get crazy. The Bruins have much work to do before they're contending for Pac-10 championships every year and playing in BCS bowls. But even the Trojans weren't Trojans-like this season in finishing 9-4 and winning the Emerald Bowl.

Neuheisel certainly has UCLA moving in the right direction. depends on the expectations.

I loved this... (emphasis added)

UCLA played in a bowl game that was later on the calendar than USC's, as unimaginable as that would have been two years ago. The Emerald Bowl has more pizzazz than the EagleBank Bowl - but not by much.

USC's four losses are unacceptable, considering Pete Carroll is still coach.

Wow! Really?

Man, she really fell for that?

You can thank Tom Hansen for the Bowl Schedule but at least the Emerald Bowl is a "Pac-10" bowl game. I am not sure what you would call the EagleBank Bowl.

As for SC's 4 losses...unacceptable for whom? Yes, many SC fans had a hard time swallowing that bitter pill but If SC has a down year or TWO on the way back to greatness then I will take the trade off. I guess Painter wasn't around for the dark years. You want pain? Go watch those tapes...

Painter, as much as I like her style when compared to Wolf, Plaschke and others, tends to be pretty fair in her writing but she could be premature in writing this. I am sure that it was feel good story for bruins fans when they backed into and won their no-name bowl game. I know it met with Slick Rick's expectations of six wins and a bowl game but lets not get carried away...with the daunting schedule that ucla has next year, the losses they take on defense and an O line that still has some major issues does anyone expect ucla to better than this season?

Like I said, it is all in the narrative. And some have said (you know who I am talking about) that 2011 is the year for ucla to be good...conveniently bypassing 2010.

If ucla flies under the radar and is better next year then the Angels will sing, the Harps will play and the Gates of Heaven will open up. We will hear cries of ucla being "back", whatever that means. But if they don't, if they finish worse, is anyone really going to pay attention? I mean come on this is ucla football we're talking about. I don't care how bare they claim the cupboard was when Slick Rick took over...other coaches have made more significant progress in the same amount of time with "lesser" coaching staffs and talent. Jim Harbaugh is a good example that is pretty close to home.

Painter attempts to stir the pot with the gratuitous crap about the NCAA issues but until I see a formal wrap sheet produced I will hang back and wait. I mean Slick Rick doesn't have a history right? Who do you trust less? The guy who already committed the proverbial crime or the guy who has a clean record...regardless of what you THINK may have happened.

In the end I really don't have a problem with this piece. It actually shows us a lot. This is another example of the press simply wanting something else to write about and you can tell in the expectations that the press is looking for something fresh and new. Be careful what you wish for...

If SC continues to roll and if ucla makes modest progress then what are we to think. Modest progress does not get you a Pac-10 title and I see no evidence of ucla lighting the world on fire yet.

Finally, I will leave you with this...

UCLA beat USC in 2006 but that's been its only win against USC in the past decade. Neuheisel's famous ad, in which he proclaimed "the football monopoly in LosAngeles is officially over," was officially embarrassing when it first came out.

The monopoly isn't over, but the idea doesn't seem quite so far-fetched if the Bruins continue to improve, and USC continues to slide.

"It's looking a lot better," Moore said. "I think the tables are going to turn next year."

It probably won't be next year, but UCLA has closed the gap.

Ever so slightly.

How about their only significant win. It is the only win they talk about.

That's right, the monopoly is far from over but depending on your point of view ucla could only go one way....UP!

I think ucla fans could be in for a big disappointment in 2010...