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The Pac-12 and their L.A. problem

The UCLA and USC football programs are struggling

NCAA Football: San Diego State at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the premier programs on the West Coast are struggling. USC and UCLA who have won National Championships, Rose Bowls, Pac-12 Conference Titles are at a cross roads with their football programs.

Growing up, these two football programs seemed like they would rotate in winning the Pac-12 (Pac-10 for me growing up) and head to the Rose Bowl Game on January 1. Both schools had the reputation of winning, the glitz of being in Los Angeles, and fans who wouldn’t accept anything less than a National Championship or a Rose Bowl berth.

Things have changed.

The Pac-12 Conference and college football need USC and UCLA to be relevant. The issues are plentiful for both programs.

Cleveland Browns Vs. Seattle Seahawks 10-23-2011

USC may be slightly more relevant at the moment, but nowhere near what they need to be. Having the sanctions from Pete Caroll era setting the program back further than most people thought, the Lane Kiffin debacle, Steve Sarkisian drinking on the job, alumni not thrilled with the Clay Helton hiring, former AD Lynn Swann stepping down, and underperforming talent has left the Trojan football program feeling less than powerful.

USC is a blue blood when it comes to college football. When the Trojans are good people pay attention to what is happening on the West Coast. The rest of the country could not give a damn about what happens out West.

The last memorable win for the Trojan program was the 52-49 win over Penn State in the 2016 Rose Bowl.

Other than that USC really hasn’t struck fear in the hearts of their opposition.

Oregon isn’t scared of the Trojans, Washington isn’t frightened of the Trojans, and Utah doesn’t exactly shake in their boots when they see USC.

When the Trojans had Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and LenDale White there was nobody that wanted a piece of the Trojans in the Pac-12. Nobody. Those teams were rock stars. When USC would go on the road it almost like The Beatles were coming to your city.

That doesn’t happen now.

The media wants USC to be great so bad.

USC wants to be great again as well, but for the time being they are average. The strange thing with the Trojans is that they probably the most talent overall. Yet, that talent is not performing like their talent level would suggest.

After the USC win last weekend over Stanford you started hearing “the Trojans could be back”. Pump the breaks people. It was one game. The Trojans struggled with Fresno State the week before. This week they have BYU on the road. BYU beat Tennessee on the road last weekend. This isn’t some scrub game the Trojans have with the Cougars. BYU can beat USC.

The next thing the program/school need to figure out is who will be the new athletic director.

In the past USC liked to hire people who have a connection to the school. Don’t do that anymore. There are more qualified people out there and they are not a Trojan. Go outside the program please. USC has the money to attract whoever they want in the country.

Put your money where your mouth is USC.

Many people I know have referred to these issues as the “USC problem”. It’s time that USC fixes this problem and gets back to that Trojan glory that we all know the program can attain.

UCLA

Things are not good in Westwood. At. All.

For the first time since the 1942-1943 seasons the Bruins have started 0-2 in back-to-back years. This is not the kind of history that head coach Chip Kelly wants to be a part of.

The team is not bringing fans to the game either. Last week against the San Diego State Aztecs there were PLENTY of seats available.

This week with highly ranked Oklahoma coming to the Rose Bowl the UCLA athletic department has apparently sent an email to season ticket holders offering four free tickets.

San Diego State v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The season ticket holders will be able to forward these tickets to anybody of their choice. Having Oklahoma coming to town should motivate Bruin fans to show up, but evidently the fan base is so down about the program the athletic office has to come up with creative ways to get Bruin fans to the game.

Expect a ton of Oklahoma red in the stands on Saturday.

How much blame does Chip Kelly deserve in all of this?

Kelly deserves some blame for sure. Once UCLA hired him the expectations were raised. Fans and media were wondering how long it would take to try to implement the dizzying offense that he ran at Oregon.

Everybody is still wondering.

That crazy, up tempo scoring Oregon offense he had is just not there right now. Chip was supposed to have an offense that would be outsmarting the opposition, run at light speed, and be a ton of fun to watch. The offense looks lost. With the offense struggling the Bruins are only averaging 14 points per game. UCLA is also averaging only 239.5 yards per game as well.

Nothing dizzying about this at all.

Now, Coach Kelly has only been there a year and half. Getting his type of players in the program takes a bit of time. The irony of all this is that UCLA has one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country and for the time being those top recruits are staying away. Some of those players are going to other Pac-12 schools and some of them are going to other Power 5 conferences.

The recruiting for UCLA has been a disappointment. Their recruiting class this past year was ranked 40th. There was only one player in the ESPN Top 400. That’s right. One player in the top 400 for UCLA. That’s not going to get it done in Westwood for Chip Kelly.

This calls into question the recruiters that Coach Kelly has surrounded himself with. You’re only as good as the talent you have on the roster. Bottom line, recruiting to UCLA, which shouldn’t be to hard, needs to get better.

Winning will help with recruiting, so Chip Kelly has his hands full.

The talent just has not been there for the Bruins in recent memory. I can not remember the last time UCLA played in a meaningful game.

Can you?

Until the Bruins start winning consistently again the program won’t be relevant. Which is truly a shame because UCLA is a great school with a deep tradition in college football.

Final thought

The L.A. problem that the Pac-12 has is something that won’t be solved overnight, in the next few weeks, or even by the end of the season.

It gets solved when Trojans and Bruins start winning consistently again, winning marquee matchups, recruiting better and getting those recruits to play to their potential. The history of these two schools is to great to not have both of schools in the national conversation.