Tuesday, September 30, 2008

PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 5

I thought it would be fun each week to put together a "power ranking" of how well each team in the conference is playing right now. Instead of looking at each teams overall record, I'll simply consider how they look today and their prospects for the future. Kicking it off with week this first addition:

1. USC. The Trojans have way too much talent to be ranked any lower at this point. They showed their immaturity last week by buckling under pressure. Carroll should have them refocused and ready for the Ducks.

2. OSU. Jacquizz and his Beavers passed the test last week. This from a team that usually plays their best football later in the season. They might be vulnerable to a let down game against Utah this week.

3. Oregon. Fourth string, fifth string... what quarterback are they on? Didn't matter last week as the "system" can sure put up a lot of points. Depth is still a concern for the long haul. Game in Coliseum this Saturday should be brutal.

4. Arizona. They haven't really been tested but the numbers don't lie. Good offense and good defense... at least for now. Has Stoops finally put together a complete team? We may not know for a couple more weeks as the Wildcats host the winless Huskies this Saturday.

5. Arizona State. Don't sleep on these guys. They still have one of the best quarterback in the conference and a lot talent around him. The loss to Georgia didn't look any better after the Bulldogs got whipped by Alabama. They return to action this week against the Bears.

6. California. Despite the record, this team hasn't looked very impressive in their wins. Statistically they didn't play much better than Colorado State, but big special teams play and a pick-6 was the difference. Losing their best running back in Jahvid Best for two weeks with a dislocated elbow is a concern.

7. Stanford. Not a lot of talent. Not a lot of depth. But the Cardinal put in workman like performances each and every week. They also seem to be playing teams at the right time (see Oregon State week 1). Quarterback play is a weak spot.

8. UCLA. The offense takes two steps forward while the defense takes a step back. Giving up 30+ points each week isn't going to win many games. They have a chance at their first conference win this week when the Cougs come to Pasadena.

9. Washington. Jake Locker has accounted for 70% of the Huskie offense this season. He is also out for up to 8 weeks with a broken thumb. They weren't winning any games with him in the lineup but the chances of them winning games with him out of the lineup doesn't look very good. Willingham fired in T-minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....

10. Washington State. The good news is the Cougs won a game two weeks ago. The bad news is they lost their first and second string quarterbacks for the season. Ouch. Giving up 60+ points to conference opponents is bad. Giving up 60+ points to conference opponents at home is deplorable. Maybe a road trip will change the results? Don't count on it.

Under New Ownership

The cougars are our kryptonite. It doesn't seem to matter what their record is or how poorly they are playing, they manage to beat us year in and year out. In fact, they have won six of the last seven meetings. The sole win was that overtime, miracle comeback in 2005. Otherwise, we've been their bitches. Its been so bad, that last years their fans chanted: "We own you! we own you!" as our team left the field.

I hope we kill them on Saturday. And exercise some demons like we did against Tenneesee. We're 19 point favorites... which scares the crap out of me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Slowly But Surely

You know, I walked away from that game today feeling better about this team. Today was progress. Not in all areas... *cough* defense *cough*... but the offense looked markedly improved. Special teams was feast (Terrance Austin setting a school record on kick off returns) or famine (Punt returned for a touchdown). All in all, it was a step in the right direction.

Let's start with the good news. Welcome back Kalil Bell! The combination of Coleman and Bell seems to be working for UCLA. The duo racked up 159 yards on the ground. As a team, the Bruins rushed for 234 yards. That's more than the first three game combined! In fact, the run game has steadily improved each week since BYU, where UCLA managed a pathetic 9 total yards on the ground. Now, to put that in some perspective, Fresno State has one of the worst run defenses in the country. They ranked 95th coming into this weekend. Arizona wasn't a bunch of world beaters either with the 49th ranked run defense, but UCLA did manage 115 yards against them as well. Let's hope this trend continues.

It seems like the offense line is really starting to gel. They might not be able to take on some of the better teams in the conference, but they seem to be finding some consistency. I really liked the combination out there today. Dean, Savage, Baca, Ekbatani, and Reed. It looks like Micah Reed might miss some more time after hurting his other knee today. That's a bummer but they did OK in his absence. They even gave Craft some more time to throw. A good effort.

The bad news was the defense. You have to give credit to Fresno State. They have a very prolific offense and a very, very efficent quarterback in Bradstater. He is accurate and cool in the pocket. You expect that from a seasoned senior. But our secondary is not very good. Norris and Viney were particularly poor in coverage today. It doesn't help that we get very little pass rush. We have to get some pressure from the linebackers and defensive ends because we're getting picked apart in the passing game. Brian Price was the lone bright spot. I almost had a heart attack when he went down with an injury. Glad to see he was OK and came back for a huge game.

On the coaching decisions... I thought they were fine. Some will hang Neuhiesel for accepting the holding penalty deep in UCLA terrirorty, but I don't. When I watched it live, my first thought was to decline; but I see why he choose to accept it. It did put Fresno State in a longer field goal position. They're kicker was not very good and Rick was gambling that his defense would come up with a big stop. Likewise, on the 4th down when we had the ball... he took a chance on our offense.

Both were gutsy moves. Both showed confidence in his players. Both failed. People will bitch about the decision but what they're really complaining about is the outcome. Everyone hated it when Dorrell played it safe. Now people are complaining that Neuheisel is taking too many risks. Shit. We need to role the dice with this team, because we don't have the consistent play makers to win these types of games every week. You have to take the risk to get the reward. It just didn't work out in our favor this week.

Anyways, I look forward to the game against Washing State. Hopefully the progress continues and we get a tick in the win column. That sure would feel good... for both the players and the fans.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Condoms Broken by Beaver

Upset? Yes. Shocking? Not really. A heavily favored USC losing to an also-ran PAC-10 opponent (of two) has become an annual event. Its strange how the Trojans completely intimidate out of conference opponents. Their hype and image preceeds them and those schools psyche themselves out before even taking the field. But the PAC-10 isn't feeling intimidated... and The Beavers weren't feeling the love for the Trojans either.

Things look bleak for USC to make it to the National Championship game. With the entire conference looking like poop, the Trojans will have a very low strength of schedule. Loosing to a then 1-2 Beaver squad will drop them significantly in the polls. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving program.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did you know?

There are more teams from the Mountain West ranked in the top-25 then from the PAC-10. Ugh. With Oregon taking a dive against Boise State (granted, they did lose another QB during the game) there are more teams from the WAC ranked in the AP poll as well. Double Ugh. With Fresno State taking us on this week, I don't know if that will change significantly come next Monday. Tripple Ugh.

No Joy in Mudsville

Another week... another collapse. At least this time we didn't get completely embarrased. We only embarrased ourselves a little. Is that progress? I suppose. It is kind of scarry to see this team get absolultely dominated by opponents. There are so many mistakes, poor tackles, bad blocks, and mental errors that its hard to know where to begin when discussing this game. I knew it was going to be a tough, long season but this is really bad.

UCLA hasn't had this bad of a start to a season in 15 years. You have to go all the way back to 1983 to find a Bruin squad that got off to a worse start than 1-2. That 1983 team (coincidently quarterbacked by Rick Neuhiesel) wobbled out the gate with a 0-2-1 start. What's really worisome is that our 1-2 start is one of the worst in terms of point differential.

Point Differential of recent UCLA teams that started off the season with two or more losses:
2008 : 37 - 104 = -67
1983: 44 - 89 = -45
2003 : 44 - 78 = -34
1996: 73 - 73 = 0
1997: 124 - 70 = 54

At least we got something going in the run game. Moline and Coleman finally dragged us from the cellar as the worst rushing offense in college football (thank you SDSU and SMU for running less than us). Sadly, our total offense ranks an abysmal 117th in the nation. Total defense is right up there in the high 90's as well. Of course, if our defense could actually get off the field for more than 3 downs, that would be helpful as well.

What was particularly depressing about this lose was the terrible special teams play in the second half. Arizona had four drives in the fourth quarter. Three of them started off in UCLA territory. Our punt coverage was not good and kick-offs were not much better. I'm not sure what Ganz needs to work on with these guys but something is way off. Either Perez is out punting his coverage, our guys aren't following their lanes, the tackling is bad... or all of the above. In any case, we were giving up huge amounts of field position each time we kicked the football. Punting definately wasn't winning this last week.

Penalties are on the rise as well. The first game against Tenneesee saw only two penalties. The second week, at BYU, we raised that number to four. Against the Widcats, we had six. The total yards on those penalties isn't huge (around 30 yards / game) but its not good to see that number going up each week. You kind expect that with so many young guys in games, so hopefully that decreases as they gain experience.

Losing stinks... plain and simple. What stinks more is when you get trashed about during the game. The BYU debacle was about as bad as it gets. Against Arizona, things were better for three quarters, but got out of control at the end. This team needs a lot of work to improve and that applies to almost every squad. I'm not expecting miracles, but I would love to see some improvement from week to week. It's not there yet. Not by a long shot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Nine Dwarves

Wow, our conference just absolutely shat itself today.

BYU humiliates UCLA on the road.
UNLV beats ASU at home. #15 Arizona State... loses to UNLV... at home.
Cal gets beat by a hapless Maryland team.
Arizona loses to frickin' New Mexico.
Oklahoma crushes Washington.
Stanford goes oh-fer against TCU.

Oregon has to rally and needs overtime to squeek past a mediocre Purdue team.

Oregon State has some saving grace against a shell of a Hawii team.

... and then USC beats the CRAP out of a top-10 Ohio State team.

We deserve the reputation of being the Nine Dwarves.

The Mountain West Owns Us

... and by us I mean the PAC-10. UCLA loses to BYU. New Mexico beats Arizona. TCU beats Stanford. UNLV beats ASU.


The Wasatch Whoopin

What do you say after a game like that? I guess we all knew this was a possibility coming into this game. The whoopin' we took in Provo today was eerily similar to the one we took in Salt Lake City last year. I don't even know if there was any silver lining to this game. A blow out loss, injuries galore, and more mistakes than you could shake a stick at.

I'll admit that a part of me (a very optimistic part) thought that the new coaching staff and the Tennessee win meant that humiliating losses like this were a part of UCLA's past. I didn't think we had much of a chance to win this game, but to just get swept aside so quickly... and easily... was outside of my realm of expectations.

Too many mistakes. Way too many mistakes. This was something that could have happened last week if Tennessee had taken advantage of some of those turnovers as well. BYU took our 4 turnovers and turned them into 28 points. The coaching staff has to fix that ASAP. We're not going to win many games if we keep giving up the ball like that.

What hurts the most, though, was the injuries. Reed is out for next week. Carter is banged up but he'll be back. Dean, on his one and only carry, gets hurt. Kyle Bosworth might miss some time. How many more guys can we lose this season? It boggles the mind.

Even Forbath missed an easy one.

Well, I'm going to bed and pretending like this game never happened.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2008 Preview: BYU

I don't have time for a full blown write-up this week, but thought I would put in my two cents for this game up in Provo.

I think our offensive line is in for a tough day against the BYU front seven. Tenneessee didn't hardly blitz during our game. It's a lot easier for 6 guys to block 4 guys than it is to pick up linebackers and defensive backs flying in from different angles. Even with that advantage, we had no running game against the Volunteers. I can see BYU trying to put a lot more pressure on Craft this game; I know I would.

Our run defense wasn't that good against a solid UT O-line and Foster carying the ball. BYU might not be as good, but their O-line is big and they're running back is a big dude as well. They could really wear down our defense over the course of four quarters. Max Hall, the Cougar quarterback, is a much, much better passer than Crompton. Our young secondary will get burned a few times. Heck, our senior-laden secondary got burned by him last season at the Rose Bowl.

With Bronco Mendenhall calling the shots, you know this team will be much better coached than Tenneesee. They're a tough, physical team and it will be a real test for UCLA. I think it will be a close game but home field advantage gives this one to the Cougs.

My prediction: UCLA 20, BYU 24.

Love On for the Jonas Brothers

Got to love this. During USC's weekly coaches conference call with the media a prankster got through. The guy said his name was Steve Marsh from College Blog. He asked Carroll: "Would you ever reward your players with sex with Britney Spears or the Jonas Brothers?"


Of course, the coaches response: "Boys will be boys".

OK, I made up that last part, but you got to love the moxy of some guy to bring that kind of smack. Love on!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Haves and the Have Nots

There is definitely a rift developing in the PAC-10 between the good programs and those that are going to take a drubbing this season. You can squarely put Oregon State and Washington State in that arse beating category. The Beavers lost by 31 in an inept performance against Penn State. That doosie was only to be topped by the Cougars who got buried by 63 points at the hands of the Bears.

Man. We better not lose to either one of these teams. That would really, really suck.

Block that Kick

Wow, BYU is making a living off of blocked kicks. Just like they did in the footnote bowl last year against UCLA, the Cougars blocked a kick against the Huskies and won in dramatic fashion. That is probably a good thing for us, as we get a ranked BYU team next week. It stinks for Washington though, as that game really should have gone into OT. Excessive celebration for throwing a ball over your shoulder? Lame-0.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Giving Credit

One thing I wanted to note. There has been a lot written about the game, but one guy who hasn't gotten any accolades is Michael Norris. In a night with a lot of crucial plays, Norris made some big ones but you may have not even noticed. From my excellent vantage point up in the noise bleed seats at the Rose Bowl... I took notice.

Michael Norris made at least two touchdown saving tackles on Monday. One was on a blown coverage by the outside linebacker (not sure who it was) but Norris was left out there with no help to contain Foster has he rolled out with the ball. He fought past the much larger wide receiver and managed to corral Foster out of bounds.

Another big tackle came on a kick off where the return man broke left as the entire mass of players when right. Except for Norris, who held his position and tracked down the ball carrier. Add to that six total tackles and a downed punt inside in the 10-yard line and Michael Norris had one heck of a night. For a guy who's taken his fair share of criticism over the years, it was good to see him have a solid night as a starter.

Last Monday night was full of stories like this one. Guys stepped up and took starting roles for the first time and they played as a team. They were outmatched at every position but, as a whole, this team played better because everyone did their part. Some of them didn't make the hight light reel. But their impact was definitely felt... and much appreciated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rick, Rick, Rick!

At the end of the game against Tenneesee, Rick Neuheisel got up and addressed the crowd. We were exhausted, excited, and still recovering from near heart failure. I was 100% convined, about a half dozen times, that we were going win that game only to have another half dozen moments where I was positive we would lose. Neuhiesel wrapped up one of the most eciting games I've ever witnessed with a great speach. Another cerished memory I'll keep for a very, very long time.

It is GREAT to be a Bruin!

Ranked ?!?!

Wow, we're ranked . The AP poll has us at #23 and we just missed on the coaches at #26. Amazing... and a bit crazy. There is no way we deserve that mark at this point in the season. I also like playing as the under dog in these games. Oh well.

Starting off the Season Right

What a great day at the Arroyo Seco. The sun was out, the fans were excited, and football was in the air. There is no better feeling than walking into the Rose Bowl for the start of another season.Like most of the Bruin faithful, I wasn't expecting much. I was just hoping we could keep it close.

The First Bruin Walk of the 2008 Season.

We rolled into lot H a few hours before the game. Just in time to catch the 2008 edition of the Bruins come walking down through the crowd. That's such an awesome tradition. A couple things of note. Ben Olson was walking along with the team, without any noticable limp. I was kind of shocked, actually, I thought he would have been hobled still. Another thing is that Pat Cowan is the man. He was way behind everyone else, limping heavily in his brace, but he still greated all the fans.

Pat Greats the Crowd

They kicked of the festivities with some sky divers descending into the Rose Bowl. That's something I had never seen before. It reminded me of that story from Saturday where the sky divers for the North Carolina game accidently landed at the Duke sadium. I was half expecting those guys to land at the Coliseum.

Look Out Below!

As the game progressed the Rose Bowl started filling up with blue shirts! Not the usual mismatch of greys, greens, blues, and every other color under the sun. No there was a noticable blue tint to the vast majority of the fans. Of course, there was a good sized Tennesse orange in the visitor section and springled around the bowl. But it was a very strong UCLA crowd last night that was loud and enthusiastic. It was very cool. Even the student section had decent turn out.

Sea of Blue. Trust Me. It was Blue.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Two Words



Its late and I just got back from the Rose Bowl, but I'll have a lost more thoughts and some video from the game. Couldn't have asked for a better start to the Neuheisel era. What a game. Hell Yes!!