Rams back in the O.C. … for August

THEY'RE NOW the Los Angeles Rams, and they are practicing at UC Irvine in August.

THEY’RE NOW the Los Angeles Rams, and they are practicing at UC Irvine in August.

August is here, turning the sports page from baseball to football. High school, college and professional versions of the great gridiron game will be starting as early as next week. Here are the questions football fans will be asking.

  1. How good will the Rams be?
  2. The St. Louis Rams may have brought the people of the Gateway City the team’s only Super Bowl trophy back in the days of Kurt Warner and “The Greatest Show on Turf,” but over the last decade, they kind of stunk up Edward Jones Stadium, and haven’t been to the playoffs since George W. Bush was in the White House.

mm-coach-logoBut L.A. is catching the team on the upswing. They were 7-9 last season, and lost several games by a whisker. The Rams have one of the best defenses in the NFL, an exciting running back in Todd Gurley, and a possible franchise quarterback in Jared Goff. The team will also have the advantage – in home games – of what’s expected to be a huge, loud crowd. Think Seattle’s “12th Man.” So, 8-8 is very doable, and 9-7 is within reach. Not back for a return.

  1. Will I be able to see a Rams’ game?
  2. Yes, absolutely. Since the team left in 1994, the NFL has changed its policy on “blacking out” in home TV markets games with are not sold out, so you should be able to see all Rams’ games, home and away, as long as you have cable TV. In person, it will be a little trickier; 70,000 season tickets have been sold, and a very limited number of individual tickets will be sold on a per-game basis. If you – or your big corporation – didn’t buy some, there will always be a “gray market” in tickets online and elsewhere. If you want to attend a Rams practice at UCI Irvine, they’re free and open to the public through most of August. See the Rams practice boxaccompanying chart.
  3. When does it all start?
  4. The Rams make their big return on Aug. 13 at the Coliseum for a pre-season game against the Dallas Cowboys at 5 p.m. This is will an historic and emotional contest. Typically, teams use these games to try out different lineup combinations, so don’t expect to see Goff under center for the whole game. But considering the marketing implications of the teams’ 2016 “revival” in Southern California, expect Coach Jeff Fisher to make an effort to give the fans a more serious approach as a preview of what to expect when regular season play starts on Sept. 18 as the Rams host the Seattle Seahawks.
  5. Are any of the “local” teams candidates for the College Football Playoffs?
  6. Maybe? USC and UCLA are both strong, but the Trojans face a killer schedule (Alabama, Stanford and Notre Dame) while UCLA has some scary road games at Arizona State and Washington State. They’ll be top 25, but not final four.
  7. Who is favored to make the college playoffs?
  8. Depends on who you ask, of course, but we like LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Boise State. Alternately, don’t be surprised if Alabama or Florida State get in there in place of the “favorites.”
  9. Who looks strong on the local high school front?
  10. We’ll be ranking teams in the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area in a couple of weeks, but right now, Edison looks like the strongest team in the region. Garden Grove, which has dominated the Garden Grove League for the better part of a decade, is expected to be rebuilding a bit in 2016, so the Garden Grove League will be more competitive than it has been recently. The Empire and Golden West Leagues: up for grabs. Pacifica and Westminster didn’t win league titles in 2015 but are on the rise.
  11. Tell the truth. How reliable are sports predictions before the season starts?
  12. Not reliable at all. But they’re fun to write and read, and that’s what sports are, right? Kids’ games that grew up.

Monday Morning Coach appears on, gee, Mondays.

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