Bruin Blue with another epic. GO BRUINS. -N
No, that is not my prediction to be this year's record. This is Karl Dorrell's "perfect storm" season, when everything lines up just right for him--talent, experience, favorable schedule and luck. We've already seen some of that luck on Saturday against BYU. So-called football luck usually favors the teams with the most talent; and UCLA does have more talent than the school from Provo, and of course had the home field. But any reasonable observer would admit that the Bruins were somewhat lucky to win; and we've seen examples of Dorrell's luck before. this season. It's good to have a lucky coach, but not when all it does it save his job and prevent his true mediocrity from being even more apparent.
The 6-6 is my prediction for next season, when we lose those seniors, and when the schedule becomes much tougher. We will have road games at Oregon, Cal, Washington, Arizone State, and BYU; and I would expect us to lose all of them, as well as losing to USC. I don't even know our other two nonconference games, but we'll probably luck out and win them. Then the Dorrell contingent will say that 6-6 really isn't so bad for a rebuilding season, after the great '07 campaign.
And it's that almost certainty that this year will be the anomaly, the kind of season that any coach of a major program can have if he stays around long enough, that is so dispiriting. What's the point of two good seasons--maybe even one good one and one great one--every six years? UCLA should be like Ohio State and Florida and Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and our nemesis USC, and be a national force virtually every season. And yes, I know all about how Michigan is being embarrassed this year; but I can guarantee you that Mr. Carr will not be around next year; and that the Wolverines will hire someone like Jeff Tedford or alumnus Les Miles. That's what big-time programs do. That's why Ohio State got rid of Cooper, and Florida jettisoned Zook. Without that feeling that we are either consistently at the top echelon, or are determined to fire coaches until we get there, it's all pretty hollow. Oh, sure; some will say, "Why can't you just enjoy this season without worrying about the next one?" Well, I will enjoy this season's wins, and I'm not worrying about the next one, because I'm pretty sure I'm right about what will happen, and I've seen it all before around here.
One almost-loss to BYU does not make this season a failure by any means. But it certainly is additional evidence that UCLA wins in spite of Dorrell and his coaching staff, not because of them. Dorrell was unquestionably outcoached by Bronco Mendenhall, whom (along with about forty others) I would rather have as coach of this program. Were it not for a very questionable fumble call against BYU, and several penalty calls which went against them, Mendenhall would likely have come away with the victory. But not only did Dorrell pull out the win, but he unaccountably went after the officials, singling out a particular call, and apparently ignoring all the rest. Frankly, I do not recall a coach criticizing the officiating in the media after a win; perhaps it happens in other sectors of the country; but if so, I would like to hear about it. Playing amateur psychologist, it seems as if Dorrell is determined to have his career season this year, the one which either gets him the lifetime contract at UCLA, or that coveted NFL job; and he is going to do anything and everything to attain it, whether it's firing and scapegoating coaches, getting a friend of his with a criminal record hired and then retained as assistant in a very strange saga, or attempting to intimidate the Pac-10 officials.
Well, whatever the case, the bottom line is 2-0, heading to 3-0 against a woeful Utah team which Dorrell is trying to prop up. Then improved Washington, playing their third all-out game in a row, after Boise State and Oklahoma. Like I said, the man is lucky. Then some other Pac-10 teams which are better than expected, but all of which we get to play at home. 11-0 going into USC would not at all surprise me, as we will be favored in every single game until then, unless of course we start losing. And no one can argue with 11-0, not even the most dedicated Dorrell critic. Except that eventually there will be another season, and one after that; and that's what needs to be remembered as this particular campaign continues.
What I and many other long-time Bruin alumni and fans wouldn't give for something definitive--either the proof that we have a coach who will make us the national power we should be; or the clear indication to the athletic department that the one we have is substantially lacking, allowing us the opportunity to hire someone else. But we rarely if ever get it--we mostly get a series of up-and-down seasons, just enough to keep the coach around. Terry Donahue managed that feat for twenty years. It took UCLA seven seasons to fire Bob Toledo and Steve Lavin. You know what? If a coach is really good, it doesn't take very long for it to be apparent. Ben Howland got us to the tourney in his second year, and to the Final Four in his third. Pete Carroll won a national title in his third year; Bob Stoops in his second; Urban Meyer in his first at Florida. All that propaganda about coaches needing time to rebuild and cure underbellies is just nonsense. But at UCLA there appears to be the need for about a decade's worth of data to be carefully sifted and analyzed; this while most of the power programs get rid of unachieving coaches after two or three years. So this year will simply be a major upward blip on Dorrell's resume; while next year should see a return to mediocrity. However, this season could well buy him at least three more, by which time he might be able to come up with another big one. So it simply looks like we should all really, really enjoy this particular Bruin football season, because we are unlikely to be enjoying the next one. Compare that to our basketball prospects, and the difference is easy to see--which of course is why so many of us are not too happy about the current situation.
- Bruin Blue