By Don Wanlass
Some quick thoughts on a variety of sports topics this week, also known as the lazy way to write a sports column.
First, what a topsy-turvy past week this has been in college football. Ohio State lost to Michigan, Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State, Auburn took Alabama to four overtimes before losing, BYU defeated USC during rivalry week (huh?) and that was before the coaching news.
USC’s hiring of Lincoln Riley caught everybody by surprise. USC athletic director Mike Bohn took a big swing and hit a home run and revitalized the program with a coaching hire.
Riley coached Oklahoma into the college football playoffs three times. He coached two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and both were No. 1 overall draft choices in the NFL.
He already has a five-star quarterback lined up for the 2023 season in Los Alamitos High star Malachi Nelson and will surely slow down the exodus of highly sought after Southern California high school prospects fleeing the state.
This may be the greatest USC coaching hire ever.
And then Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for Louisiana State. Kelly apparently decided that if he couldn’t beat Southeastern Conference teams he might as well join them.
Recruiting will be easier at LSU because of Notre Dame’s strict admission standards and Louisiana produces more top high school players than Indiana. And $10 million a year for 10 years to coach football seems like a good deal financially, too.
While USC fans are celebrating Riley’s hiring, Dodgers fans are wringing their hands with the news that Corey Seager has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers and Max Scherzer is heading to the New York Mets.
Scherzer was always a hired gun, meant to replace Trevor Bauer in the starting rotation for last season’s stretch run. The Dodgers weren’t going to pay a 37-year-old pitcher upwards of $100 million over three years.
Seager is a bigger loss because he was a key bat in their lineup at a key spot defensively.
His loss means the Dodgers need to resign Chris Taylor. With Seager gone, Taylor becomes even more valuable to the Dodgers.
I also would like to see the Dodgers resign Clayton Kershaw to an incentive-laden contract starting in the $8-10 million-a-year range with incentives for starts kicking in after 10. With the improvements the Rangers are making in free agency, Hershaw may decide to stay home and pitch for Texas next year.
No matter what happens, Andrew Friedman and the rest of the Dodgers brain trust will figure it all out before the team heads to Arizona in March and the Dodgers will still compete with the Giants (and maybe the Padres) in the National league West next year.
Moving on to the NFL, it’s better to have a mid-season slump that a late-season slump.
That being said, the Chargers and Rams both need to figure out what has happened and solve the problems.
The Rams were 7-1 after defeating the Houston Texans 38-22 Oct. 31. Then they went 0-for-November. Getting outplayed by the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and (after a bye) the Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers and Packers used the same formula, holding the ball for more than 39 minutes apiece, which keeps Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Rams offense on the bench.
It hasn’t helped that Stafford has throw five interceptions in the three losses, but these have been team losses and coach Sean McVay needs to get this thing figured out. The Rams made big time acquisitions of linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for the playoff push.
It’s time to right the ship. Playing Jacksonville should be a big help this week. That game is followed by a huge Monday night game against Arizona Dec. 13. A loss to the Cardinals would make the Rams take the wild card route to the Super Bowl, a path they really don’t want to go down.
At 6-5, the Chargers find themselves in a similar position as the Rams.
After a 4-1 start, the Chargers are 2-4 in the last six games, unable to put together a winning streak longer than two games so far this season.
It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with a 10 a.m. game Dec. 5 in Cincinnati. The Bengals are 7-4 and coming off a big 41-10 win against the Steelers, who the Chargers struggled to beat two weeks ago.
The Chargers need to defeat the Bengals because the last five weeks of the season are tough divisional games against the Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders sandwiched with a couple of what should be easy games against the New York Giants and Houston Texans.
Like the Rams, the Chargers probably will have to go the wild card route once the playoffs start. But they need to go at least 3-3 down the stretch because there is logjam of 11 teams in the AFC with six wins or more.
Only seven make the playoffs.
The Rams have an easier route to the playoffs because there are only five teams with seven or more wins in the NFC.
Still, both teams need to regain the form that got them off to 4-1 starts this season.
And then there are the Lakers. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Lakers would be in the play-in tournament. With three-quarters of the season remaining, the Lakers are the oldest team in the NBA with a 12-10 record to prove it.
If all the former all stars on the roster were in their prime, the Lakers would be favored to win the NBA title this year, but most of those players are well past their prime and they don’t seem to be meshing as well as a team composed of so many good veterans should be.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. At one time, those five if put together on an Olympic team, could have annihilated most of the competition.
Now, they are five old guys in search of direction. James and Westbrook get in each other’s way. Davis, one of the best big men in the NBA, wants to pay outside and Anthony and Howard are shells of what they once were.
Coach Frank Vogel is still struggling to find a rotation that works. In a win over Sacramento Nov. 30, starting center DeAndre Jordan played only four minutes, Howard came off the bench for 35 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. With James out of the lineup because of COVID-19 protocols, Malik Monk came off the bench to score 22 points, but Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker need to prove they can be counted on every night if the Lakers are going to be anything more than playoff fodder for Phoenix or Golden State in April.