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Accidents happen in L.A.

Posted: Tuesday November 29, 2005 11:42AM; Updated: Tuesday November 29, 2005 2:57PM
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UCLA hopes to trip up the Trojans and their Rose Bowl aspirations.
UCLA hopes to trip up the Trojans and their Rose Bowl aspirations.
Harry How/Getty Images

By John Walters

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to catch the Paul Haggis (no thanks, I never touch Scottish food) film Crash. Now, I'm no expert on racial relations or on cinema that compels us to explore our relationships not only with our fellow man but also with our inner selves. But I do like to think I know a little something about movies set in Los Angeles. And here is what I know: If it's set in L.A., a wreck's on the way.

Crash is the perfect title, then, for a film in the City of Angels. As I said, I'm no allegory code breaker, but I think the preponderance of automobile mishaps that occur in the film is actually a metaphor for the collisions of culture, race and class that occur each day in a diverse metropolis such as Los Angeles. But that doesn't explain the bad driving in Pulp Fiction, in which John Travolta drives his car up onto Eric Stoltz's front lawn, and Bruce Willis runs down Ving Rhames. It doesn't begin to explain Jamie Foxx's wild cab ride with Tom Cruise in Collateral. Or the reckless driving by Jeff Bridges in the early moments of Against All Odds. The drag race in the spillways during the climactic scene in Grease. The opening scene in Mulholland Drive. The chase scene in Point Break. The entire film Gone in Sixty Seconds. Or The Fast and the Furious. The Italian Job. Lethal Weapon -- I, II and III.

And you didn't actually think I forgot about Speed, did you?

Anyway, here's the point: Los Angeles, the most automobile-addled town in history, is prone to accidents. And accidents, crashes, are metaphors for disruptions in the prescribed flow of traffic.

And how does all of this apply to college sports?

On Saturday, at Los Angeles Coliseum, there's a potential fender-bender of a year-ender between those cross-town rivals, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. Or, as they're better-known, UCLA and USC. The Trojans, winners of 33 straight, are 22-point favorites in this game, and for the life of me I don't understand why. Oh, that's right, the Bruins' defense is straight out of the French army playbook. But, yo, UCLA was no defensive juggernaut last year and the Bruins only lost to the Trojans, 29-24, in Pasadena.

This year? UCLA is 9-1 and has the nation's passing efficiency leader in quarterback Drew Olson. The Bruins their own version of Reggie Bush in all-purpose yardage maven Maurice Drew, who happens to lead the country in punt return yardage. In tight end Marcedes Lewis the Bruins have arguably the best player at that position in the land. And, if UCLA should pull of an upset on Saturday, the entire college football season would have its Crash moment.

Planets would not exactly spin off their axis if the Trojans lost. In fact, even though they would have lost to UCLA and both teams would have identical conference records, the Trojans would win the tiebreaker. Wha??? Well, here's how the Pac-10 figures it. The Trojans, Bruins, and Oregon would all be 7-1 in conference and since all three did not play each other (UCLA did not play Oregon), then the tiebreaker is record against common opponents. And that's where UCLA's loss to Arizona, a school that USC and Oregon both beat, drops them out. See how simple college football is.

Still, should the Bruins win, the BCS might need the jaws of life to pry open the carnage a USC loss would foster. Would the Trojans, Pac-10 champs, still be worthy of a national title game? And if so, how unhappy would the fans in Happy Valley be about that? If Penn State journeys to Pasadena instead, the Trojans then would likely wind up in the Orange Bowl. But would not UCLA, with an identical record as USC and having beaten them head up, not be irate at that scenario?

Could it happen? Why not? Did you see how much closer some of last weekend's rivalry games were than anyone predicted? Did you watch as Fresno State, a very good team but in no way one that is definitively better than the Bruins, nearly took out USC in the Coliseum on Nov. 19? Do you have any idea how stoked the Bruins players will be for this game? The Bruins very well may crash the BCS party in Los Angeles this Saturday.

Accidents will happen. In Los Angeles, you can count on it. It's just unusual that you can actually know where and when they will occur. Let the rubbernecking begin.

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