LOS ANGELES — There are 7 minutes left in the first half of Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, and the Georgia team hotel bar is silent. Forget Dags and Frogs fans; there is just a handful of people with plastic faces and painted-on eyebrows.

This couldn’t be more L.A. if Paris Hilton were handing out beach towels made of quinoa.

The bar is mostly empty, save for a handful of hockey fans waiting for the Los Angeles Kings to host the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

Wait. Stop. There’s a commotion. Georgia’s Javon Bullard has just reeled in an acrobatic interception. A buzz starts to grow. Is that … is that … some excitement?

Hold up. No. That’s not why there’s a buzz. Mark Cuban — that Mark Cuban, of Dallas Mavericks and Shark Tank and three-comma-club fame — has just walked down into the lobby. A couple guys who definitely have Ethereum in their portfolios sprint to take a picture with him. As he walks away, the fervor dies down. Wait a second, now this couldn’t be more L.A.

When Georgia scores a few minutes later to go up 31-7, there’s barely a peep. This settles it. Los Angeles is not the ideal setting for college football’s marquee event.

It seems the only place packed with college football fans is SoFi Stadium.

Both in the seats and on the field.


In 2021, Mater Dei High’s Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy just weeks earlier, led the Alabama Crimson Tide into a loss to Georgia. The year before, Ohio State’s Chris Olave — who hailed from San Diego — led the Buckeyes in receiving in a loss to Bama.

It seems like every year, the best and brightest leave the friendly confines of the West Coast’s Sunshine State to head to “football country,” places where the game is beloved, bars are filled with fans and gameday is church.

This year, Georgia’s Kendall Milton (Fresno, Calif.), as well as TCU’s Emari Demercado, from nearby Inglewood — just a stone’s throw from SoFi Stadium and one of 9 Horned Frogs hailing from California — shined bright.

But as expected, Bulldogs tight end Brock Bowers (Napa, Calif.) shined brightest.

Bowers had 7 receptions and 152 yards to lead both teams in both categories, and he also added a touchdown reception.

Back in California in front of friends and family, he balled out.

“I remember watching him on film when I first got here,” Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken said on CFP title game media day. “He was different than what I just talked about. He wasn’t really an Air Raid Y. He was more of a running back novelty, get the ball to him. That’s where you can see some of his special qualities, which is run after catch, and you can get him the ball in a lot of ways. … There’s certain things we didn’t expect. We didn’t expect him to be as mature as he was a year ago, to come in as a true freshman and to play like he did and be as squared away as he is.”

The scary thing is, Georgia is only getting started on its Cali pipeline, which includes 4-star running back Roderick Robinson from San Diego’s Lincoln High in the class of ’23 and a verbal commitment from St. John Bosco’s Peyton Woodyard, the No. 2 safety and No. 2 player in state of California in the class of ’24.


It’s not just Georgia, though.

With USC and UCLA down in recent years, national programs made huge inroads into the California recruiting scene, in large part due to the kind of general malaise that befell the championship game on Monday.

The game carried as much local hype as a big bicycle race. If this matchup was held in Dallas or Atlanta or Miami, the celebration would’ve continued long into the night.

College football is just not king here, and recruits know it.

As Georgia continued to build its lead on Monday and the game got boring, I sent a text over to my buddy Blair Angulo, 247Sports’ West Region College Football Recruiting Analyst.

Here’s what he had to say:

“The truly elite California high school players care about football and they want to play where other people care about football, so national powers like Georgia are always going to be an appealing destination,” Angulo said. “It also speaks to the type of talent California produces year in and year out — even with schools out West being virtually absent from the national spotlight, players from California shine when they have the platform to do so. That’s why they leave the state.”

That was evidenced Monday night, in both an empty bar and on a wet football field.