Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oregon State Farks

We took a page from the UCLA offense this week on Bruin Roar, and decided that when it comes to the farkive, it is always better late than never. So, despite the fact that its already Sunday, here is a paultry sum of Beav farks. Enjoy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Running With the PAC: Week 4

So, a little late with my recap of last week's games. I've had a couple of really busy days at work and it doesn't look like things will slow down anytime soon. Anyways, on to football!

We saw the real start of PAC-10 play this last Saturday as all 10 teams locked horns in conference show downs. I already discussed the UCLA game, but I also wanted to note that Matt Slater was awarded the PAC-10 special teams award of the week. This is the 3rd week that a UCLA player has won a conference award (Olson - offense, Perez - Special Teams). We'll see if a defensive player can get the nod this week as we head to Corvallis to take on Oregon State.

Speaking of the Beavers, they struggled again this week with their quarterback play. Sean Canfield ended up throwing 5 interceptions in their loss to Arizona State. They actually jumped out to a quick start but Rudy Carpenter and company stormed back and ended up winning 44 - 32. Carpenter ended up throwing for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns and the junior has regained some of the magic from his freshman season. The Beavers are becoming a one dimensional team that relies heavily on Yvenson Bernard to move the chains. Their defense, though, is pretty good against the run when their offense isn't handing the ball over every other series. The Bruins may have a hard time running this week so Olson will have to deliver.

The Trojans whipped the field with Washington State to nobody's surprise. They've extended their home winning streak to something like a million games. I don't know if anyone is going to be able to beat them at the Coliseum this season, the Bruins included. What's interesting is that they are primarily racking up yards on the ground. That is a big departure from last season when the Trojans were high flying and Booty was the focal point of the offense. Don't get me wrong, Booty is still putting together good performances, it's just that the numbers show more of a running game developing.

The Bears got their revenge on Arizona for last season's shocking loss in Tuscon. They came out and punched the Wildcats in the mouth early, scoring 4 touchdowns in the first quarter. Things settled down after that but Stoop's boys never really threatened in that game. Longshore put up some rather pedestrian numbers only throwing 1 TD with 1 INT but he moved the chains with 235 yards passing. It was the Bear running backs that took all the glory. With a combination of Forsett, Montgomery, and Best racking up 186 yards and 4 touchdowns. California continues to press for their place as the 2nd best team in the conference.

The final matchup pitted Oregon versus Stanford on the Farm. The Ducks proved once again that their offense is potent, scoring 55 points and racking up 589 yards. The flip side of that is that their defense proved to be just as bad, giving up 402 yards and allowing the team to trail hapless Stanford 31-24 at the half. I can't quite figure out if Oregon is really good. They show flashes of brilliance but also seem to have glaring weaknesses as well. Stanford, to their credit, is a scrappy team that you can't take lightly. They will shock a team, or two, this season.

Betting on the Bruins: Oregon State

This last week proved why I wouldn't bet real money on UCLA. You never know what team your going to get. UCLA has covered the spread 3 times this year and 3 times they've hit the over. With the yards and points our defense is giving up each week, I don't think you'll see an under bet for a while.

So, looking at the Beavers, they have a pretty good defense. Well, at least they are pretty good against the run. They give up a lot of points, but it's hard to defend your field when your QB is giving away a NCAA leading 9 interceptions. UCLA has been absurdly bad on the road and Olson at QB doesn't give me any more confidence. If the Bruins can't move the ball on the ground then even more pressure falls on Ben's shoulders.

Looking at the latest odds, Oregon State is a 2.5 point favorite. Which is basically a toss-up. The over is at 54 and that's starting to push up. I'll take the Beavers minus the points and the over, because ... well, I have no confidence that either defense will keep this game low scoring.


  • UW. O/U: 47. My pick: Under. Actual: 75. -$100.
  • UW. UCLA -6.5. My pick: Washington plus points. Actual: UCLA + 13. -$100.
  • Utah. O/U: 43.4. My pick: Over. Actual: 50. +$100.
  • Utah. UCLA -14. My pick UCLA minus points. Actual: Utah +38. -$100.
  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Konrad Reuland Leaves Notre Dame

If you've followed UCLA recruiting over the years then the name Konrad Reuland might ring a bell. The former Mission Viejo Diablo was a highly ranked, and highly recruited, tight end in the 2006 class. It came down to USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame for his services and Konrad chose the Irish over his southland favorites.

It looks like Reuland might have a change of heart. After spending 1+ seasons in South Bend, Konrad has left Notre Dame and is headed back home. He will likely enroll at a local JC and finish out the 2007 season earning his associate degree. The reason for his departure isn't clear but playing time may have been a factor with the big tight end 3rd on the depth chart. He did play in 11 games over the last two season, but mainly in a reserve role.

He had this to say to the South Bend Tribune, “Basically, it came down to the fact I wasn’t happy with where I was. It was combination of things, not just football, not just the school. I wanted badly to be happy again, and felt this move was the best thing for me".

Why should you care? Well, Reuland will be a big time prospect again this winter and the Bruins are sure to figure into his final decision. USC is also interested and Stanford might be in the mix as Konrad's younger brother, Warren, is committed to the Cardinal for the 2008 season. It sounds like Konrad wants to be near family and friends to that would put UCLA near the front of the pack for his services.

Reuland's key measurables: 6'6", 240 lbs. Both Rivals and Scout ranked Reuland as one of the top-3 tight ends in the country when he graduated high school. Scout gave him 5-stars and Rivals 4-star. With 3 years of eligibility left, Reuland can open up his recruiting to any school after completing his associate degree at a local Junior College.

(photo credit:

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Don't F*%$ Know

Seems like fans and sports writers love to analyze the comments of coaches and players. There's even a term for the convoluted, cliche-laced responses of coaches... "coach speak". Well, finally a player decided to just cut through all the crap and speak his mind. When Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter was asked how his team came back from a 19-point deficit to beat Oregon State this last weekend he had this response:

Nice! Nothing like live radio. Of course, in our politically correct society, Carpenter had to apologize for what he said.

Having Fun...

I have to say, even though UCLA made its fair share of mistakes on Saturday, it was fun watching that crazy shoot out finish. The prior 6 quarters of football ( 2nd half of BYU and the entire Utah game) were just down right painful to watch. This week we had running touchdowns, passing touchdowns, a kick return for a TD, a punt return for a TD (that was called back.. aggh!), and a pick-6. Plus two trick plays in one game! Be still my beating heart!

Saturday also saw another page added to the mythology of Pat Cowan. With only one week of practice under his belt, he cobbled together a gutsy effort. His finaly numbers ( 17-30 (56%), 1 TD, 1 INT, 147 yards passing, 10 yards rushing ) don't tell the story of timely competitions and opportune scrambles that kept alive crucial drives. Pat didn't complete a lot of passes but he completed passes when the team needed them. Just when it looks like we might have a viable option to Ben, Pat tears his MCL and will more than likely miss a lot of games this year (the MRI today will give the definitive word).

Welcome back Chris Markey! Where have you been the last three weeks? Markey's 198 yards and 1 TD were sorely needed, especially with the quarterback depth getting scary thin. I was also glad to see Bell get the starting nod. His final numbers were not as impressive ( 109 yards and 1 TD) but he is emerging as the work horse back for this team. If the offensive line can continue to provide them holes then this two-headed monster could really emerge as a force.

Like a swig of Pepto Bismo, the victory yesterday makes you feel at least a little bit better about the program right now. But, at the same time, you know that the underlying problem could rear its ugly head again. The 10 penalties did their best to kill Bruin drives and keep the Huskies in the game. The play calling and game plan were great in my opinion, but it makes you scratch your head and wonder why we didn't bring that cram-it-down-your-throat style last week against a Utah squad vulnerable against the run. This team seems to show up some weeks and not others and the roller coaster ride called UCLA football doesn't look like it is going to end anytime soon.

If they didn't have all those mistakes then the Bruins could have really dominated that game. Pretty impressive considering that Washington is turning out to be a very good team. Jake Locker is the real deal and it is scary to think that kid is only a freshman. I think, at the end of the season, we'll look back at this as a tough, solid win. Up next we have Oregon State and a game, on paper anyways, that is absolutely winnable. UCLA has been near perfect at home the last 2+ season (14-1) but awful when playing outside the Rose Bowl ( 6-8). The game is up in Corvallis this year and I can't say I'm confident that we'll win. We'll just have to strap-in, pull down the safety bar and enjoy the ride.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Pat Cowan the Answer?

Well, since I asked this question about Ben Olson two weeks ago, I thought it only fair to try and answer the same question about Pat Cowan. When I wrote that article about Ben, I didn't think Pat would be available to play for a while. As it turns out, he's not only going to play this Saturday but he is the starting quarterback. So, is Pat the right man for the job?

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll get the answer this weekend. Pat has just recently returned to full practices after a month of recovering from a groin injury. While the coaches have publicly expressed confidence that Cowan is ready to go, you have to believe that he'll be slowed by the injury. Since Pat's main strength is his scrambling ability, he likely won't be as effective at running as he was last season. That being said, Cowan does bring some different and potentially beneficial skills to the position for the Bruins.

The biggest change that Cowan brings is that he can move (even if he isn't 100%). He's no Vince Young, but he does force opponents to take his running threat seriously. Nobody is worried about Ben running and teams can drop lots of defenders back into coverage on obvious passing downs.

Another difference that Pat posses is that he throws well on the run. With the O-line stinking it up, a mobile QB can buy some extra time. Ben's accuracy declines dramatically on the move, or at least that's the impression I've gotten this year. If Pat gets on the move then the defense has to respect his running ability and that can allow a receiver to get open if the line backers key on Cowan.

The final thing I like about Cowan is that he has a level head. Pressure doesn't seem to effect him and he stays calm in difficult situations. That makes him a gamer in my book and the fruits of his cool demeanor was that big win over USC last season. When Olson gets rattled, he starts trying to force passes and that gets him into trouble.

Not everything is peachy keen with Pat. His accuracy when passing is worse than Ben. He doesn't have the same arm strength or touch as Olson and the chances of him turning into a big time quarterback aren't very likely. Cowan also doesn't have any better grasp on this offense then any of the other quarterbacks and that has lead to stalled drives and scoring droughts in the past.

I wouldn't expect a lot from Pat in this game. His injury probably will limit how well he can play. If he can just manage the game, limit turnovers, and keep a few drives alive then that's about the most we can expect. It will really fall on the rest of the team to make the plays that earn UCLA a victory this week.

With Ben cleared to return to practice, he will likely take back the starting position next week. Unless Pat puts together a spectacular performance (which isn't likely), I don't see Dorrell replacing the southpaw. It would be good to see Pat get healthy and back in shape in case he is needed later in the season. With the kind of protection the line has been providing this season, he might get called upon sooner rather than later.

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Betting on the Bruins: Washington

Ah the Utah game. Like everyone else, I never imagined the Utes creaming us. I took the Bruins minus the points and got absolutely crushed. The upside, from a gambling perspective, is that I took the over and Utah covered that single handedly. Ouch!

Up next is Washington. Boy, I thought last week was hard to call! If I was gambling real money, I would skip this game because I have no idea what this team is going to do on Saturday. But that would be no fun and since we're playing with funny-money anyways, I'll take my best guess.

The latest line, as of this morning, is UCLA -6.5 with an over/under of 47. If the Bruins are going to win then it will be close. Pat is under center but he hasn't really practiced much this year with the groin injury. That will likely limit his mobility and he won't be in top physical shape having limited activity over the last month. Washington's duel threat quarterback looks like a big problem, but his passing accuracy has declined since their opener over Syracuse (gee.. that sounds familiar). Still, he gets it done on the ground. We're back at the Rose Bowl, where the Bruins have gone 13-1 over the last 2+ seasons. Tough call.

I'm going to pick UW plus the points. I just don't think our offense will move the ball effectively against a pretty good Husky defense. I think our defense will play better, simple out of sheer pride, but another spread offense doesn't give me warm fuzzies about our chances. I'll take the under and bank on our defense rebounding enough to keep UW in the low twenties.

  • Utah. O/U: 43.4. My pick: Over. Actual: 50. +$100.
  • Utah. UCLA -14. My pick UCLA minus points. Actual: Utah +38. -$100.
  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pat Cowan to Start Against Washington

Just a quick note. Pat will be staring against the Huskies this week. Let's hope that change can spark a little life and energy into this team and give the offense a new dimension with his scrambling, throw-on-the-go style. I also hope Ben recovers from his headaches this week and is ready to play in case we need him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Banged, Battered, and Bruised

Not only are the Bruins suffering from bruised egos after the Utah game, they also have a growing list of players who are banged up physically. Here is the current group of guys on the injured list:

Shannon Tegava (OL). Knee, minor tear in MCL. Out for two weeks.

Ben Olson (QB). Concussion. Questionable for Washington game.

Marcus Everett (WR). Ankle Sprain. Out for Washington, should be back soon.

Michael Pitre (FB). Knee. Minor participation in practice. Likely out for a few more weeks at a minimum.

Brigham Harwell (DT). Knee. Out for a month and maybe the rest of the season.

Aaron Whittington (LB). Concussion. Out for Washington and maybe longer.

Nickola Dragovic (DE). Concussion. Likely out for Washington.

Brett Locket (DB). Hamstring.

With all of these injuries, we'll have some new faces on the field for the Huskies; that might be just what the doctor ordered. If Ben does not practice by Thursday then Pat Cowan would likely get the start this weekend. P.J. Irvin will take over for Shannon Tegava at guard and Kyle Bosworth will step up for Whittington. Osaar Rasshan will pick up some of Everett's minutes. Brian Price might also get into the mix this weekend and rotate in to fill Harwell's spot. At Tuesday's practice Rasshan and Price looked good, so let's hope they make the most of their new found playing time.

Running with PAC: Week 3

Let's take our minds off the Utah disaster for a while and talk about the rest of the PAC-10. It was Cal State week for the conference as San Deigo, Fresno, and San Jose were on the schedule. This week also saw USC return to action in a feature match up with the Nebraska Corn Huskers.

Stanford matched their win total from last season by smacking around bay-area wipping-boy San Jose State. They blanked the Spartans in a game between two west coast light-weights. Oregon got the honor of spanking Fresno State in their post-Michigan victory lap. The Ducks hung 42 points on the Bull Dogs in the first half alone with 4 touchdowns coming from Stewart and Dixon. The final Cal State beat down came at the hands of the Sun Devils. San Diego State rolled over as expected and ASU improved their record to 3-0.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the rematch between Pete Carroll's Trojans and the once-mighty Nebraska program. The game wasn't even remotely as close as the final score might imply. The Trojans dominated from the start and their offensive line absolutely punished the Corn Husker front four. Sam Keller's 2 interceptions setup easy scoring drives for the Trojans that put the game out of reach. USC looked very much like the best team in the nation after a lackluster performance in week one. Stafon Johnson had a huge game gaining 121 yards on the ground, making his case for the starting running back spot.

Washington State and Oregon State took on Idaho and 1-AA Idaho State respectively. After their own decimation against Cincinnati, the Beavers took out some frustration on the Bengals (Yes, I had to go look that one up) scoring 61 points. WSU also cruised over the hapless Vandals for their second straight win. The Bears got their own Mountain West patsy last Saturday, but they creamed Louisiana Tech. Justin Forsett and an impressive 153 yards and 3 touchdowns in the affair.

Which leaves us with the only other loser of the week, Arizona. The Wild Cats lost to lowly New Mexico for their second defeat of the season. The Lobos picked apart Arizona's secondary for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a close finish with Arizona's eventual capitulation in front of their own fans in Tuscon.

(photo credit: AP)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Name that Humiliating Loss

Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep yourself from crying. One good way to do that is to poke fun at your own team's uncanny ability to find itself on the wrong end of soul-crushing defeats. I can't think of a good name for last Saturday's humiliating loss so I thought I would turn it over to you, the faithful reader.

Here are some of our games to name, with my own suggestions included:

2003, @Colorado (16-14). "The Mile High Mashing"
2003, Fresno State ( 17-9 ). "The Silicone Shellacking"
2004, Wyoming (24-22). "The Vegas Vanquish"
2005, @ Arizona ( 52-14). "The Debacle in the Desert"
2005, @USC ( 66-19 ). "The Crushing at the Coliseum"
2006, @Notre Dame ( 20-17). "The South Bend Shocker"
2007, @Utah ( 44-6 ). "The Salt Lake Surrender", "The Massacre at Mormon Town".

I'm sure you can come up with something better.

(photo credit: SCR)

The Blame Game

When you lose like UCLA did this last Saturday, it is natural to assign blame somewhere. Unfortunately, there is plenty of blame to go around as almost every aspect of the game was a complete train wreck. The net result was the absolute worst loss in the Dorrell era. A 38 point drubbing that didn't see UCLA score a single touchdown for the first time in four years.


As the old saying goes, games are won and lost in the trenches. UCLA's lineman lost. Oh how they lost. Five sacks and no holes for the running game. This coming against a Utah team that had one of the worst run defenses in the country. The worst part, however, came on pass protection. When UCLA was faced with 3rd-and-long (which happened a lot) the Utes would send three and drop eight into coverage. Even with that paltry amount of pressure, Ben would go scrambling for his life and even got sacked once. Did I mention all the false starts? With out best offensive lineman, Shannon Tevaga, getting hurt and out for an unknown number of games, things could not have gone any worse.

Ben, Ben, Ben. I like Ben Olson. He seems like a good kid with his priorities set straight in life. I want him to succeed, I really do. But I've seen this movie before. It was playing last year at this time. It starts off with a great opening game and then progressively gets worse, and worse, and worse. We've now gone from 5 TDs to 2 INTs, to 3 INTs and a fumble. Ughh. Ben gets rattled when things aren't going well and he tries to make big plays. That usually translates into him forcing the ball into double and triple coverage. After 8 games and the same pattern emerging, I'm ready for a change. If Ben struggles early against Washington, I want Pat Cowan put in there. He may not be any more accurate when throwing the ball, but if he can keep the ball out of the Husky's hands that would be a HUGE improvement. Pat is supposed to be ready for full practice this week and he better get ready to play this Saturday.

Note to the running backs. When you aren't running the ball, you actually have to block someone. In particular, you may want to pickup that guy running full speed at your quarterback's blind side. It looks like Kalil Bell has come back to earth. He isn't running with the same intensity as he had against Stanford. Chris Markey was no better. With a poor passing game and no run, it is no surprise that we couldn't score any touchdowns.

The receiving corps had one nice bright spot. Brandon Breazell should get the Gutty-Little-Bruin of the week award if one existed (maybe I should create one, hmmm...). Just 7 days after having a mild concussion and a slew of dental work to fix his busted teeth, he went out and caught 6 passes for 121 yards. The rest of the group... eh. It doesn't help when you QB is struggling but the Marcus Everett drop was a big momentum killer. It was one of those things that works 95% of the time and I know he was just trying to make a big play. Still, the net result was another turnover that completely deflated the team.


It was a surprise to see our offense struggle this much against Utah, but you kind of expected some issues before the start of the into the season. But what the heck has happened to our defense? We have 9 returning starters. Sure, we lost Harwell and Dragovic to injury, but can this squad really be this bad? This is the third week in a row that our secondary has given up a lot of yards, and points, through the air. It is no longer just a "the opponents were passing a lot so the numbers were inflated" thing. This is a serious problem. One that has to be solved ASAP or a lot more losses are in our future.

I'll give some credit here to the Utah offensive line. They are a big group and one of the best in the Mountain West. That being said, we have little pressure from our front four. Worse yet, our linebackers were completely ineffective while blitzing. I know we don't have the biggest group but I thought our defense was supposed to be fast and smart? They didn't have either working for them Saturday as Utah confused the crap out of our guys. They were slow to respond and lost on coverage.

What is completely mind blowing is that our defense giving up 44 points to Utah's second string! Their running back, quarterback, and main wide receiver were out this week. Sure, our defense was put into bad situations by offensive turnovers. But they got run over by a Utah offense that had only managed 2 touchdowns in the their prior two games. Absolutely unbelievable.

Special Teams

Wow, Hello Kai Forbath. Just two weeks after missing a chippy against the Trees, he hits a 40+ yard field goal from the left hash mark with plenty to spare. Aaron Perez on the other hand was atrocious. A number of shanked punts the game after he was named PAC-10 special teams player of the week. Interesting that Ben had a really poor performance after he got the offensive player of the week award. Well, the good news is nobody is getting any such awards this time around. So no jinks against the Huskies. I thought we spent a lot of time this summer working on kick returns and kick coverage? Yes, we did? OK, if you say so.


Ah yes, we've saved the best for last. The lion's share of the blame for this debacle lands squarely on the coaching staff. The team looked listless, uninspired, and worst of all... unprepared. The LA Times has an article talking about how poorly the team played during their practices leading up to the game. Bruce Davis nobly takes a bullet here saying he should have done more. That's all fine a well, but it is the coaches who get payed to prepare the team for the game. They obviously took Utah as lightly as the players.

What exactly was the game plan? Let's see, Utah gave up 334 yards on the ground to Air Force and 240 to Oregon State. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "Let's run the ball" would be a good strategy. Apparently, Jay Norvell thought otherwise. I know the West Coast Offense is predicated on the pass, but common! Ben is struggling and our opponents are weak against the run.... cram it down their throats! I don't even know if coach Walker had a plan. If he did, it was missed by his players as well. I'm pretty confident it wasn't "give up a lot of yards rushing and passing".

Ultimately, it comes down to Karl Dorrell. As the head coach, the buck stops with you. I'm not one to trash Dorrell as he has more than his fair share of critics. But how can you not point your finger and demand accountability here? Something like this in year one might be tolerated, even expected. But in your 5th year with a senior stacked team, 20 returning starters and dreams of national recognition... you cannot get lambasted like this. Especially not to a winless, injury ravaged Utah squad that will be lucky to see a bowl game this season.

Is there any silver lining? Yes, there is some. The good news is that we still have a shot at a PAC-10 title. If you are going to have an embarrassing loss, it is better for it to happen early and against an OOC opponent. The Bruins are going to have to dig deep this week and do some serious soul searching. Up next is a resurgent Washington program that will give this team all it can handle.

(photo credit: AP)

The Price is Right

Before I get cranking on articles about the game, let's kick off the week with a little good news. Brian Price finally got cleared by the NCAA and not a moment too soon. With Brigham Harwell out for a long time and the D-line getting worked over by Utah's big uglies, the Bruins could use Price immediately. He still can't play until he has practiced for 4 days (thanks NCAA!) and I don't think he would be available this week for Washington. But, good news none the less.

edit: Looks like Price will be available for the Washington game!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Top-15 team... check. Twenty returning starters... check. Seniors on all sides of the ball... check, check. Visiting a second tier team, playing second stringers, from a second tier conference... check and check. 44-6 blow-out. Sounds about right.


How could something like this happen? Well, I'll have to mediate on it for a few days because I have no words right now. Maybe these pictures can help articulate what happened today in Salt Lake city.


The Play By Play

That about says it all

(photo credit: AP)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Betting on the Bruins: Utah

Last weeks BYU game may not have been the easy win we all wanted, but the game did go according to my prediction. Chris Markey's late touchdown pushed the Bruins into a comfortable lead and, for all the gamblers in Vegas, it pushed the Bruins past the spread. It also put me up $200 in imaginary money as I hit on both the spread and the over/under.

Another fictitious $200 is on the table for this weeks game, but I'm having a hard time picking which way to go. The latest odds have UCLA -14 points with an O/U of 43.5. Utah has a lot of injured players including some key skill positions on offense. UCLA also has two defensive lineman (Harwell and Dragovic) out for the game. I suppose that balances out but with the recent offensive struggles against BYU, I don't have any feel for how well our O will perform this week. The Bruins are just so inconsistent it is hard to know what to expect.

Without Johnson, I don't see Utah passing the ball very well. UCLA's run defense has been very stout but the loss of Harwell is going to hurt that. If Utah thinks it can take to the air to get some yards then I think they will run into a UCLA secondary that is going to have a big game. They've been picked on the last two weeks, but I can see a big game with some interceptions. Utah runs a 4-3 and that should put Ben Olson back into a familiar setting. I have a gut feel that UCLA puts up a few TDs on offense and another one on defense/special-teams. I'm going to say 31-13. That's UCLA minus the points again but this time I like the over.

  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Ben Olson the Answer?

We’re two games into the season and seven games into Ben Olson’s career in Westwood. He’s started out strong the last two years but struggled after the opening game both times. His performance against BYU left a lot to be desired and without a reliable passing attack, the Bruins will find themselves fighting to eek out wins every week. This has left fans everywhere asking if the big south paw is really the man for the job behind center. Well, he’s going to have to be because we really don’t have any other options.

Olson ended up completing less than half of his passes last Saturday with no touchdowns and one interception. The offense struggled along with Olson’s accuracy and it didn’t seem like they would score a point in the second half. You have to give this team some credit, though, as they battled their way down field at the end of the game to put the ball in the end zone and the game out of reach. Still, the two offensive touchdowns came on drives that depended almost entirely on the running game. Ben did make a few key passes, including a big 34 yard pass to Marcus Everett, but otherwise it was a wasteland of bad reads, misplaced throws, and dropped balls.

So what’s the problem? Is Ben not getting enough time from his offensive line to make his reads? Are the receivers not getting enough separation? Is Ben just not finding the right receiver or is he just getting the ball to them too late? The answer might be a combination of the items above but the consensus seems to be that Olson just doesn’t deliver the ball fast enough. He waits too long on quick, short passes (which are a staple of the west coast offense) and his passes arrive too long after the receiver has made his break. He needs to deliver the ball before the receiver breaks and that requires making good reads and an almost immediate decision on where the ball should go.

So are these problems fixable? Some of the pressure will fall on Jay Norvell to try and find plays where the Bruins can maximize Ben’s strengths. I also think that Norvell can take some of the pressure off of Ben by utilizing the running game some more. Kalil Bell has the hot hand right now and he is running with power, strength, and a lot of anger. He’s been a bull in the backfield and his consistent success carrying the ball will help develop some more play-action passing. Norvell also needs to call in some more deep passes. He only utilized a few last week and got more conservative as the game progressed. Stretch the field and put that big arm to work! The receiving corps also needs to step up as 5 dropped passes isn’t going to get it done.

Ben may have some issues and he may never be able to regain that magic from his high school days, but he is the only man for the job at UCLA. Even if Pat Cowan were available (which he isn’t) or if Mac Thompson were more experienced (which he isn’t), Ben would still be the most gifted of the three. Nobody can deny that he can throw a nice ball and if he can work out his timing issues he could be special. Pat brings a scrambling element to the game that Ben doesn’t posses, but his accuracy when throwing is really no better. Thompson might be able to step up in a pinch, but would you really put the offense in the hands of a red-shirt freshman walk-on? Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to that and this offense irons out its problems. Otherwise, it could be a very long season.

(photo credit: AP)

Running with PAC: Week 2

We'll start off this week with the Thursday night game that featured Oregon State visiting Cincinnati. The Beavers looked a little shaky against Utah the prior week, but the wheels came off the bus against the Bear Cats. They had a ridiculous 7 turnovers (6 interceptions!) and were completely embarrassed in a 34-3 shellacking. Sammie Straughter rejoined the team for this game after missing most of training camp due to a death in the family. The rust was apparent as Straughter fumbled a punt that was recovered inside the 5 yard line by Cincinnati. A blocked punt also lead to easy points and the otherwise good Beaver special teams looked very poor. Ultimately, the Bear Cats stacked against the run and bullied OSU's offensive line. Without a dependable passing game, the Beavers struggled all night long.

The Oregon match up with Michigan was the marquee game of the week. If the Wolverines hadn’t dropped their opener to Appalachian State, this might have been a big win for the Ducks over a top ranked team. As it turns out, Michigan may be headed for a train wreck season with Oregon as just the second of many defeats. Dennis Dixon was hot, hitting 16 of 25 passes for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns. After trading scores early, it was all Oregon and they romped their way to a crushing 38-7 victory at the Big House.

The big surprise of the week was a commanding 24-7 victory by Washington over a ranked Boise State squad. Freshman quarterback Jake Lockier played as advertised and he has hit the ground running (literally!) and propelled the Huskies to two consecutive victories. I originally thought the Huskies would be a rather easy-out for UCLA, but that game looms large two weeks from now at the Rose Bowl. This team is gaining confidence each week and they have some young talent that can produce.

In other conference news, both Arizona schools cruised to victory. Arizona beat up on local whipping boy, Northern Arizona. ASU got punched in the face early by Colorado but they recovered and easily coasted to a big 19-point victory. Washington State rebounded after their loss to Wisconsin in week one and easily defeated an out-matched San Diego State team. Stanford and USC got to sit on their butts this week but will be back in action this Saturday against San Jose State and Nebraska respectively.

Notre Dame got demolished again this week to nobody's surprise. They walked into Penn State and the Nitnany Lions had their way in a romping 31-10 affair. It looks like Weiss has settled on Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. He struggled putting together only 17 completions on 32 attempts for 144 yards a 1 interception. Utah struggled to move the ball against the Air Force Academy and fell short with a 4th quarter rally. The team suffered another setback after losing wide receiver Brent Casteel for the season. The Bruins will be heading out to Salt Lake City next week to take on the Utes.

We wraps up this weeks article our victory over BYU. The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the UCLA defense looked suffocating as they swarmed and attacked Max Hall and the Cougar offense. Trey Brown had another huge day and his pick-6 sparked the Bruins and helped push UCLA to a commanding 20 point lead in the 2nd quarter. The offense wasn’t moving the ball that well, but Kalil Bell became a one-man team taking 4 consecutive runs 40 yards for a touchdown. The other good news was Kai Forbath hit both of his two attempts, one from 40+ yards out.

The second half, by comparison, was a nightmare; BYU stormed back and erased all but 3-points of the Bruin lead by the 4th quarter. The UCLA defensive back seven could not cover the middle of the field to save their lives and Max Hall connected with running backs, receivers, and tight ends all virtually un-covered between defenders. The offense ground to a halt and Ben couldn’t connect with his receivers in BYU’s zone 3-4 defense. At the end of the game, both the defense and the offense stepped up to make big stands; this senior lead team willed themselves to victory despite some key injuries on defense.

You have to give the Cougars some credit for the Bruin’s struggles. They have a huge offensive line, a solid quarterback, and a very dependable defense. I figured it would be a close game but I didn’t think UCLA’s offense would go into a turtle-like shell after having some success early in the contest. The final 10-point margin of victory doesn’t show just how close the Bruins came to losing that game. The defense was left on the field for way too long in that second half and you could tell they were gassed at the end. The UCLA offense will have to perform much better if the Bruins are going to make any noise this year in the conference title race.

(photo credit: AP)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Betting on the Bruins: BYU

So, I broke even last week with my fictitious wager on the Stanford game. I correctly picked the Bruins with the spread but was way off on picking the under. UCLA almost covered the 46 point over/under all by themselves! Moving on to this week, Vegas is giving the Cougars 7.5 points. I like UCLA minus the points. The BYU win over Arizona wasn't all that impressive and I think UCLA's newly re-tooled offense will be able to score at least a few touchdowns. The over under is 47 and I think that is an easy pick. I'm going under with both defenses looking very stout this year. I think it will be a low scoring affair but ultimately go to our boys. I'm going to say, UCLA 24, BYU 13.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Injury Updates for BYU

Here is all the latest news on injuries and availability for the BYU game this weekend.

Michael Pitre is not ready yet and likely won't play against the Cougars. Trevor Theriot will start again this Saturday.

Chane Moline started practicing with a splint for his broken wrist. He likely won't be available for the game, but a final decision has not yet been made. Christian Ramirez, who had 55 yards and a TD against the Cardinal, will take Moline's carries.

Rodney Van, who injured his leg against Stanford, is a game-time decision. He hasn't practiced much this week in an effort to let the injury heal. Alteraun Verner will take his spot at corner and Michael Norris would come in on nickel packages.

Backup defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski injured his leg in practice and was in a walking boot today. He was in the rotation against Stanford but didn't record any tackles. He looks doubtful for the next game.

Patrick Cowan won't play this week but he did some limited drills in practice this week. He should be able to get back into full practices in the next week or two and maybe be available to backup Ben a few weeks after that.

Talking Trees and Cougar Comments

Come join us tonight to talk about UCLA football on the Bruin Show! We'll be discussing all the details of the Stanford game and looking ahead to those pesky BYU Cougars. Do you have something you need to get off your chest? Are you pumped about the home opener at the Rose Bowl this Saturday? Call-in and let your voice be heard! The show broadcasts live every Wednesday night at 6pm PDT and all you need is your computer to participate. Follow the link for all the details:

You can also listen to previous episodes by following the links on the right-hand-side of the blog.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Moving on up

So, the latest USA Today Coach's Poll is out. The Bruins move up 3 spots to #14. We passed up Michigan and Tennessee , who both lost. We also passed up Rutgers, which is weird because they easily won their game against Buffalo 38-3. I guess because it was scheduled on Thursday, most of the voters missed that game. Oh well, we'll take it.

I was kind of surprised to see how far Tennessee fell in the poll. They played a very good California team on the road and kept that game tight for most of the contest. They slipped 10 spots to #24. Michigan plummeted from #5 to unranked. Amazing... I don't think I have ever seen that before. Even when #5 Oklahoma lost to TCU back in their opener in 2005, they still remained in the top-15. I guess no quarter is given for losing to 1-AA teams.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Bruins by the Numbers: Stanford

All right, so I generated my first statistics for the 2007 season. Most of them came out right, but I think there are still a few bugs to work out. Anyways, you can see them on the right-hand side of blog. I have them up for all the PAC-10 teams, including the Bruins.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the number of big plays (i.e. 20+ yards). UCLA had 9 such plays against Stanford. That's almost triple the average of 3.2 big plays from last season. Obviously, those long strikes down field translated into a lot of yards and some touchdowns as well. The flip side of that number is Stanford's 4 big plays. That's a lot and I hope that number comes way down after we play BYU this Saturday.

The play calling numbers looked good. It is hard to see if a pattern is developing after just one game, but the mix looked about right. Lots of runs this time, but Stanford was giving up big yards on the ground and it helped establish some nice play-action passing in the second half.

Looking at the official NCAA statistics, the Bruin offense ranks 1st in the PAC-10 and 4th in the country. I'm sure those numbers will come down a bit as we take on stiffer competition than Stanford, but not a bad start for this squad! Those numbers were bolstered by Kalil Bell's career best 198 yards.

Probably the best numbers from the game up in Palo Alto was the red zone scoring. After that first misfire the Bruin were a perfect 4 touchdowns on 4 attempts. Considering how much UCLA struggled last season in red zone efficiency, Saturday's match up was a big step in the right direction.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was Kyle Bosworth's day. The backup defensive end had two sacks to lead the team. The Bruins had four sacks in whole with Trey Brown and Tom Blake adding to the total. It was good to see the linebackers leading in the tackling column with Reggie Carter toping the list at 10 stops. When your safeties are you leading tacklers you know your opponents are getting behind your guys. Carter, Whittington and Taylor were the top three tacklers this week.

Appalachian State is HOT, HOT, HOT!

I would be remise to not mention the Appalachian State win over Michigan. Thanks to the greatness that is YouTube, you can see one of the biggest upsets in college football history from pretty much every single perspective.

Here is the last few minutes of the game:

The police in Ann Arbor had that place locked down but somebody forgot to guard the field goals back at ASU. Tear 'em down and drop 'em in the quad!

What's the next best thing to your team winning? Why, watching your hated rival go down in humilitiang defeat to a 1-AA school.

You could hear a pin drop in the Michigan section after the blocked kick. Well, a pin and that one Appalachian State fan screaming his head off. I love the kid's reaction: "We just beat Michigan! We just beat Michigan!". Yes you did son... yes you did.

Lookout Hollywood! You got nothing on the movie department at ASU... their HOT, HOT, HOT!

Thank you YouTube. You just made my day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Running with PAC: Week 1

Well, the first week is done and the PAC-10 looked pretty good as the 2007 kicked-off. Everybody won their out of conference games except Arizona and WSU. Most of the games were blow-outs against weaker competition, but a nice start for our conference. The big game of the night was a huge national TV win by California over the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Bruins looked pretty darn good yesterday. Sure, it was Stanford and they aren't a tough opponent; yeah, our defense probably gave up more yards and points then you would have expected; But hey, the offense did a great job! Ben Olson looked very good, connecting on 5 touchdowns for 286 yards. Joe Cowan was the much-missed play maker in the receiving corp; he caught two passes, both going for touchdowns. Brandon Breazell also had a big day with 6 receptions and his own TD. The running game was awesome and that was largely due to Kalil Bell. He's taken his fair share of criticism from us arm-chair quarterbacks over the last few years, but I have nothing but praise for him today. A career high 195 yards, including that big 60 yard rambler. There is plenty of room for improvement, but overall it was a solid victory and a good start to the season. I'll have a lot more to say about the game this week on the Bruin Show but in the meantime you can always read the recap from ESPN.

The Trojans won their game against Idaho. That wasn't a big surprise, but the low scoring 38-10 final score wasn't expected. USC sputtered a bit playing at home against the lowly Vandals. Don't get me wrong, they won easily. They just didn't look as polished as you would expect. They had 3 turnovers, including an interception from Booty, and were actually out gained by Idaho in the second quarter with the Vandals getting more yards and first downs than the Trojans. Is that a sign of weakness? No, it's more the sign of a team with some new players playing their first game in 9 months. Next week they'll take to the road to play at Nebraska. The Corn Huskers looked very good in their opener, so it should be a high-spirited, and competitive rematch this year.

California probably had the toughest opener of any team in the conference. Their offense looked really good and Nate Longshore made some great throws, hitting on 19 of 28 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Their defense gave up some long drives and big plays to Tennessee, but were stout when they needed to be, including an impressive goal line stand in the 3rd quarter. DeSean Jackson also proved once again that you should never punt the ball to him. He look the first attempt back 77-yards to the house. The Bears are going to be good this year and they definitely lived up to the #12 pre-season ranking.

Two other Bruin opponents played each other on Saturday in the Arizona and BYU match up in Provo. The new spread offense in Arizona looked absolutely anemic, scoring their only touchdown with less than a minute left to play in the game. Some of the credit has to be given to the stout Cougar defense which completely suffocated Arizona. The Bruins will have a very tough opponent in BYU next week at the Rose Bowl and it will be a very good litmus test of how much our offense has improved. The Cougars gained most of their yard through the air behind the arm of new quarterback Max Hall. The UCLA secondary will have to step it up this week to keep this team in check.

Looking around the rest of the conference, Washington looked pretty good in a 42-12 win over an out matched Syracuse squad. They gained almost all their yards on the ground with dual-threat quarterback Jake Lockier having an impressive debut. The red-shirt freshman went 14 of 19 in the air for 142 yards and he tacked on another 83 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. Washington State but up a valiant effort at Wisconsin and they actually matched the Badgers point-for-point in the first quarter and were only down by 7 headed into the 4th quarter; But they faded in the stretch and lost 42-21.

The Ducks got into a wild shoot out with Houston. Oregon came out the winner in the 48-27 match up but their defense struggled giving up 538 yards. Dennis Dixon looked good, rushing for 141 yards and passing for 131 more and scoring 3 touchdowns. I already went over the Oregon State and Utah game. Both teams struggled on offense, with Oregon State's quarterbacks looking pretty shaky. The Beavers won 24-10 but it wasn't pretty. Arizona State pummeled a hopelessly overwhelmed San Jose State, 45-3. The Sun Devils had a nice balanced attack behind Rudy Carpenter and Ryan Torain. The two combined for 5 touchdowns and ASU looks like they'll have another great offense this season.

The final team on UCLA's schedule this year is Notre Dame and the Irish got smoked by Georgia Tech. In fact, it was the worst opening-game defeat in Notre Dame history. Evan Sharpley got the nod at quarterback but Weiss ended up playing three different players at the position. The real story was the terrible offensive line play. Once again this team can't give their QB any protection and Sharpley got sacked 7 times. Notre Dame ended up with negative rushing yards for the game (mainly because of the sacks) as Georgia Tech blitzed their socks off. Everyone knew the Irish would struggle this year without their top offensive players, but such a lopsided defeat was a big surprise. We'll have to wait and see if this team will improve before they come play the Bruins at the Rose Bowl in week six.

(photo credit: AP)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Game Day

Ah, are there two sweeter words in the English lexicon? Well, maybe "Free Beer" is right up there; but for the college football fanatic, "Game Day" is about as good as it gets. And this isn't just any game, it is the first game of the the season. The fans are euphoric, the expectations are high, and your team is undefeated. It is an exciting time and with all the experience on this year's team, it should be a huge season for UCLA.

Like most fans, I'm not heading up to Palo Alto for the game. Of course, that doesn't mean we're not going to be partying it up today. The home viewing party is a beautiful thing and we're having a big bash with all the family and friends over today.

The plasma is hung by the chimney with care

The great unveiling of the new grill will occur later today

I can't wait to see this team take the field and play some real, live football! Stanford isn't exactly an exciting opponent and anything less than a crushing UCLA victory will probably be considered a disappointment. I'm a bit more forgiving and will just be happy with a nice comfortable win. There are a lot of games left to be played this year and as long as this team continues to improve each week then that's a lot more important than jumping out to a quick start. Of course, I won't complain if we demolish the Cardinal either.

(Photo Credit: Yours Truly)