The Morning Column: November 22, 2021

Why the 2021 USC Trojans will go down as the worst team to ever take the field at the Coliseum and the fallout from the LeBron James-Isaiah Stewart incident in Detroit.

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Keaontay Ingram of the USC Trojans rushes the ball as he is met by Mitchell Agude of the UCLA Bruins during the first quarter at the Coliseum on November 20, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

1. My first taste of USC football as a college student came in 2000 when Paul Hackett led the Trojans to a dreadful 5-7 record before being fired. USC went 2-6 in conference play and for the first time ever finished last in the Pac-10. That team is generally regarded as the worst in USC football history.

This year, USC is 4-6, fresh off a 62-33 shellacking by UCLA and has two regular season games left (at home against BYU and on the road versus Cal) but the title for worst USC football team ever no longer belongs to Hackett’s squad.

The 2021 USC Trojans will go down as the worst to ever take the field at the Coliseum.

While the 2000 Trojans were bad, they beat a ranked Penn State squad in the Kickoff Classic, started the season 3-0 and were ranked No. 8 on Sept. 30. They at least gave their fans one good month. They also beat UCLA at the Rose Bowl. They never gave up more than 38 points in a game and their worst loss was by 17 points to No. 11 Notre Dame, 38-21, in the final game of the season.

This USC team has been a dumpster fire from the very beginning. USC has never seen the Coliseum emptier in the fourth quarter as it has been this season. Even against San Jose State in the season opener, fans fled for the exits early as USC limped to a 13-7 lead in the fourth quarter with temperatures hitting 94 degrees and the stadium running out of water in some sections. This would be the home highlight of the worst season in team history.

USC has been historically bad at home this season. After Stanford beat USC 42-28 on Sept. 11 (USC was favored by 17.5 points and trailed Stanford 42-13 with less than six minutes left), Clay Helton was fired. It was a decision USC athletic director Mike Bohn should have made two years earlier when he was hired but by the time he did it, it was too late. USC was already in the midst of a season with Helton’s coaches and Helton’s players. He was no longer there but this was still Helton’s team.

Oregon State came into the Coliseum on Sept, 25 and beat USC, 45-27, for the first time at the Coliseum since 1960, which was the same year John McKay was hired as USC’s football coach and John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination for president at the Coliseum. Fans once again fled for the exits early when the Beavers took a 42-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

USC’s magical history tour at home continued on Oct. 9 when Utah beat USC, 42-26, for the Utes’ first victory over USC in Los Angeles since 1916.

Against an 0-8 Arizona team riding a 20-game losing streak on homecoming, USC was finally able to win at the Coliseum, 41-34, for the first time since the season opener.

The most embarrassing loss of the season, which is saying something this year, happened on Saturday when UCLA came into the Coliseum and dominated USC, 62-33. It was the most points UCLA has ever scored against USC. The only highlight of the season’s lowlight for USC fans is the blowout loss may be enough for Chip Kelly, who has gone 17-25 in four seasons at UCLA, to keep his job.  

2. The Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 121-116 win on the road against the Detroit Pistons but that was obviously not the story of the game. LeBron James and Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart were ejected in the third quarter when James hit Stewart in the face with his left elbow and hand. James contended the contact was accidental but Stewart did not and confronted James and had to be restrained multiple times. You can watch the whole incident below:

Did James intentionally hit Stewart in the face? The referees thought so upon review and it’s hard to argue James didn’t know what he was doing when you look at the replay and see James swinging his left hand at Stewart; knowing his face is there.

The Lakers were trailing 79-67 with 9:18 left in the third quarter when the incident happened. The Lakers found a way to comeback and win without James, 121-116, and outscored the Pistons 37-17 in the fourth quarter. Could this be a turning point moment of the season? It’s hard to say against a 4-12 Pistons team but it was the most together the Lakers have looked this season, especially in the second half.

3. The Lakers and Pistons will actually see each other again this Sunday at Staples Center. The game wasn’t going to get much national attention before but now it’s probably the most anticipated game of the day. Bovada has even released some odds centered around James and Stewart going into the game.

And if James and Stewart want to settle their feud in a boxing ring this year or next year, Bovada has odds on that matchup too with James opening as the favorite.

4. The Chargers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 41-37, at SoFi Stadium in one of the better Sunday Night Football games of the season. With parking and traffic still a nightmare at the new $5 billion stadium Inglewood, many fans started to head for the exits with less than five minutes left and the Chargers up, 34-20. The Steelers then scored 17 unanswered points in less than two minutes to take the lead in what would normally be a typical Chargers collapse but these aren’t the same old Chargers. Justin Herbert led the Chargers on a game-winning drive for the fifth time this season, the best in the NFL and the Chargers are now just a 1/2 game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West. Much was made about the number of Pittsburgh Steelers fans in attendance but can we please stop pretending like this just started happening when the Chargers moved to Los Angeles? This was the scene the last time the Steelers played the Chargers in San Diego on Monday Night Football.

5. A quick update on our story Friday about the Los Angeles Sparks meeting with Crypto.com after the WNBA franchise was left out of the 20-year, $700 million naming rights deal that also included team partnerships with the Lakers and Kings. Both sides spoke Friday afternoon and there’s hope that a team partnership will be announced soon; potentially before Staples Center becomes Crypto.com Arena on Dec. 25.

6. The most heartwarming sports moment of the weekend actually took place behind closed doors at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo on Sunday when Pau Gasol and Laker general manager Rob Pelinka played basketball with Kobe Bryant’s daughter’s Bianka and Capri. Vanessa Bryant captured the moment on her Instagram.  

7. Here are some odds if you’re thinking about placing a wager today brought to you by Circa Sports.

8. Here’s the local pro sports schedule today brought to you by Yaamava’.  

5 p.m. Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators – Bally Sports SoCal

5 p.m. Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues – AT&T SportsNet  

9. Here are the “get in” prices for tickets locally on TickPick if you’re thinking about going to a pro sports game tomorrow.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers – $7 (Tuesday)

10. On Friday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we talked about the Sparks being left out of the biggest naming rights deal but finding a way to work out a deal with Crypto.com.

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That’s it for today. I’ll be off Wednesday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Enjoy all the turkey and football and I will see you back here on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!