Oklahoma and Georgia will meet in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Monday in Pasadena, with both teams having players who played on the high school or community college level in Los Angeles County.
The player with a local tie that figures to make the biggest impact is Oklahoma sophomore receiver Marquise Brown, who leads the team with 981 receiving yards and yard per catch, 20.0. Brown was the leading receiver for College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita in 2016 following a high school career at Chaminade-Madonna High School in Hollywood, Florida.
Brown said he was recruited to attend College of the Canyons by its receivers coach, David Banks, through a friend, Jeremy Lubin, a Cougars receiver who also came from Broward Country in Florida, to come to the school.
“I was skeptical about coming at first, but he talked me into it,” Brown said.
Brown said at College of the Canyons “they taught me about hard work.”
“I’d always been a hard worker growing up, but they taught me to never take no reps off, always go hard,” Brown said.
Living on his own for the first time and having a job for the first time were tough, “but it helped me grow up,” Brown said.
Brown worked as a ride operator on the X2, a 215-foot-tall roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain when he attended College of the Canyons, a job he described as “pretty fun.”
Brown said he chose Oklahoma to complete his college career “because when I first came on my visit it felt like home and I knew coach (Lincoln) Riley … was going to do a good job of playing calling and getting me involved in the offense.”
Brown said he also made an official visit to West Virginia.
Brown quickly became a vital part of the Sooners offense. In his second game, Brown set a school record with 141 receiving yards in the second half of the 56-14 victory over Tulane Sept. 16, including an 87-yard touchdown reception. The performance led him to be selected as the Big 12 Conference’s Newcomer of the Week.
Brown received the honor a second time when he set the school record for receiving yards, 265, Nov. 4, in a 62-52 victory over Oklahoma State, then ranked 12th in The Associated Press poll. The 265 receiving yards were the ninth highest total in Big 12 Conference history and the most by a player from a Power 5 conference team this season.
Brown also tied the school record for receiving yards in a half, 178, in the first half.
He is the first player in Oklahoma history with multiple catches of at least 80 yards in a career.
Brown describes his team as “being full of energy, fun and we compete until the last whistle.”
He is majoring in business administration because “I want to get into real estate after football,” he said.
Sooners redshirt sophomore third-string nose guard Dillon Faamatau was a two-time first-team All-Southern Section and All-Suburban League selection when he played at Norwalk High School. He began his college career at Arizona State, redshirting in 2015, then left because of what he described as “tension between coaches” and “at little bit of … being immature as a freshman.”
Faamatau played at Cerritos College in 2016, making 32 tackles in 10 games.
Faamatau made a nonbinding verbal commitment to attend USC “but through the grapevines coach Riley and coach Thib (a reference to defensive ends coach Calvin Thibodeaux) found me while there were out here recruiting.”
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Faamatau has played in all 13 of Oklahoma’s games, making nine tackles.
No Georgia players played on the high school level in California. Second-string receiver Ahkil Crumpton played at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys in 2015 and 2016 after graduating from West Catholic High School in Philadelphia.
Crumpton said he knew in high school that his grades were not high enough for him to be eligible for a college athletic scholarship.
“My mother told me to just comb the country” for top community college programs, Crumpton said.
Crumpton said then tweeted Jaelen Strong, who attended his same high school and went on to play at Arizona State, the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, after attending Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
Crumpton attended Pierce “for two or three days, the coaches had left,” then went to Valley College, helping it to an 11-0 season in 2016, when he was selected as the MVP of the American Division Pacific Championship Bowl.
“I did a lot of growing up coming here to L.A., being out here at 17, by myself, no family members,” said Crumpton, who has caught five passes for 96 yards and one touchdown in 11 games with the Bulldogs. “I learned how to survive as a 17-year-old kid. I learned how to shop, spend my money, save my money.”
Crumpton said he worked at a 99 Cents Only Store in the west San Fernando Valley while attending Valley College.
Georgia has another tie to Southern California through its offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, who was an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton from 1985-1987 and its offensive coordinator from 1988-92, when it dropped football.
The Rose Bowl Game dispenses with its traditional Big Ten versus Pac- 12 matchup once every three years to serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
The matchup was determined by the final College Football Playoff rankings, which are made by a 13-member committee of five former coaches, four athletic directors, two former administrators, a college president and a former sports reporter.
Big 12 Conference champion Oklahoma (12-1) was second in the final rankings, one spot ahead of Southeastern Conference champion Georgia (12-1).
Top-ranked Clemson (12-1), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, will face fourth-ranked Alabama (11-1) in the other semifinal on New Year’s Day, the Sugar Bowl.
The winners will meet for the national championship next Monday in Atlanta.
The Sooners have won eight consecutive games and 18 of their last 19. Oklahoma is quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing efficiency rating, 203.8, completion percentage, .710, yards per pass attempt, 11.8, yards per completion, 16.6, and pass plays of 20-plus yards, 75. His second in touchdown passes with 41.
Oklahoma is first among FBS teams in total offense, averaging 583.3 yards per game and are fourth in scoring, averaging 44.9 points per game.
Both teams will be making their second appearances in the Rose Bowl Game. The Bulldogs defeated UCLA, 9-0, in the 1943 Rose Bowl Game, scoring all their points in the fourth quarter. The Sooners defeated Washington State, 34- 14, on New Year’s Day 2003.
The game will be the first matchup between the two teams. Georgia will be playing in California for the first time since 1960 when it lost to USC, 10-3, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oklahoma will be playing in the state for the first time since its 17-14 victory over Oregon in the 2005 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, now a college football studio analyst for CBS, said he expects “an offensive game, which I think is going to better suited for Oklahoma.”
“If Georgia can keep it a time-consuming, ball-control deal and can get some stops, then Georgia will win the game, but I think that will be a hard thing to get done with Baker Mayfield and company,” Neuheisel told City News Service.