Heard that?? Listen carefully. That THUD (!) you just heard is the impact heard across the Pac-10 today. U$C just hit the turf, and they hit it HARD. That sound is called parity, as in near-parity between the Bruins and Trojans. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself here, as we still have to play ASU next week before we face $C on the 28th, but it's hard not to look ahead at what will be a great showdown between a program that is coming back down to Earth after a long and successful run (thanks to a lot of help, thanks to Cheaty Petey's ways... but I digress) and another program that is on its way up (US). Point is, momentum is now on our side to possibly win out. SC now finds itself quite demoralized, probably playing for nothing but pride at this point, and/or for probably a meaningless bowl game. We, on the other hand, could very well be playing towards a 7-5 and possibly 8-5 season... After being 3-5 two weeks ago, could any of us have predicted the mere POSSIBILITY of such a finish? Raise your hands if you even fathomed the thought. Hard to believe we could have this kind of momentum after beating both Washington schools, but regardless of that fact, the Bruins are a team on the rise, a young team discovering itself, and more importantly, a team that has finally realized its QB is the real deal (!).
Fellow Bruins, we have a lot to be excited about, not just for what remains this season, but possibly even the next three years!. The way Kevin Prince is playing right now, we have a shot at winning out this year. And that would make for a very successful 2009.
For starters, I know (I know!) it seems like I'm jumping the gun here, but you know what, a win is a win. Yes we just beat a demoralized and hapless Wazzu team, but I want to give our guys credit. We could have mailed it in after losing five in a row, but we've done the opposite. Beating Washington at home last week proved to be a HUGE win, and now beating Wazzu like that on the road is also pretty big, and up in Pullman, it is never a small task. The Pac-10 never gets enough credit in the eyes of the east coast (for those of us who live here, it sucks... our conference is constantly overlooked and sometimes even mocked), few in fact realize that this is one of the more competitive -- if not THE most competitive -- conferences in the nation. We've had all sorts of problems playing in Pullman in the past; I, for one, didn't expect the blowout we managed to come up with today. I thought we'd win handily, but I didn't think we'd win this decisively. Again, I know it's a really bad Wazzu team, but it proves momentum is on our side. And momentum at this point in the season is everything.
That's why I believe we have a great chance in beating ASU next week. I'm watching the ASU-Oregon game this very minute, and ASU is facing what is arguably the best team in the conference, at Oregon, and they're losing by 20 late in the game... all of it expected. ASU, however, is a 'lighter' team than Oregon obviously, but they're also not as good as Stanford, Arizona, OSU, $C and arguably even Cal. We play the Sun Devils at home next week, for starters, and we'll clearly be facing a team that at the very least, is decent, but not all that. We should be able to beat these guys.
ASU is now 2-5 in conference (same as us), and they're 4-6 overall (worse than us). If you haven't noticed the two Pac-10 wins they have are against none other than... yes, both Washington schools. They also beat Idaho and Louisana-Monroe (who??). They've been pretty competitive overall, barely losing to Georgia on the road and playing everyone else pretty close, the lone exception being Stanford. In other words, we'll be facing a team with a similar identity... Other than the Cal game (which I would argue was one game we could have and should have won, against a completely overrated Cal team), we've played EVERYONE fairly tough, as has ASU. Like, ASU, we've been in the thick of each game until we've been worn down in the end -- again, like ASU.
Even though the month of October was dreadful for us... think about it, we hung in there against Stanford, a play or two and a few less mistakes and we win that game. Oregon, most of us forget was getting shut out by our Bruins at the half... they played a crazy 3d quarter and without that and a few key stops, we win that one. The Cal game was a joke, we HANDED those guys the game. By the time we played Arizona and OSU, we were a demoralized team that was trying to grasp on to life. And we still played them tough and were anything but blown out of the water. We have every reason to believe we can beat ASU, in some ways the mirror image of our team (but one on a losing streak, as opposed to us).
For starters, 1) we're at home next week; 2) Kevin Prince is ON FIRE; 3) we now have something to play for (a bowl game and plus-.500 season); 4) Coach Rick finally has our guys focused; and, 5) ASU is totally beatable because they aren't THAT much more talented than us regardless of the stats. No we should NOT overlook them, but we should also not play this game timidly... we get past them with a win at home and this is an entirely different season. In some ways the game at the Arroyo Seco next week, is one for all the marbles.
So, what seemed to be a team that had called it quits on 2009 a mere two weeks ago, is now in the thick of it. The ONLY potential negative is that we'll end up with a sub-.500 record in conference regardless of what transpires, but we have a great opportunity before us.
Assume we beat ASU next week, and that sets us up to play what is a very DEMORALIZED TrOJan team. They've been TROUNCED in two of three losses this season, far worse than any games we have lost. Sure, they'll be at the Coliseum, but home field has hardly ever been a factor in this rivalry. More importantly, not only is the SC defense winded and doubting themselves at the moment, but so is Barkley, their freshman QB. The argument can now be made that our own freshman QB, Kevin Prince himself (!), is a better QB. The Trojies can scoff at that notion, but those of us on this side can begin to believe that. Fact is Barkely is surrounded by a seasoned line and an older team, but his stats are not that impressive. Prince is surrounded by a green O-line, and a very young and mistake-prone team and, he's doing what? He's... LIGHTING IT UP! In the last 3 weeks this is a young but very talented 19-year old QB, and he's LIGHTING it up! Just look at his stats! He's found himself! Coach Neuheisel and Coach Chow have finally found their conductor and he's playing GREAT music right now.
Folks, I think we have our QB for the next three years... it's a wonderful thing to realize. We're looking at some great UCLA-USC games in the next few years... all of them competitive, and it begins in two weeks. If we make the $C game a Barkley vs. Prince matchup, don't you feel pretty good about our chances, esp. against a less-than-stellar $C defense?? Against a team that has allowed 111 points in its last three games?? I feel really good about this one, whether or not we win against ASU. IF we beat the Sun Devils next week, however, we're looking at a gem of a game on 28 November. That thud will sound even louder if we beat the TrOJies in the Coliseum.
Hypothetically, if we defeat ASU, and then SC, and get the invite to a Bowl game... by that point the season is a mild success... IF we win a bowl game, we will have won 8 games. A HUGE jump from last year. HUGE. And thus, potentially a BIG success of a season.
Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself, I know that (I know that!) but I'm reminding you that it is a very real possibility. All the cards are in order for that scenario, we just have to take care of business.
A Dorrell-led team would probably lose the next two games, shuddering and caving in to the pressure ahead (and yes, there IS pressure). I think that if we do win out... four, five-in-a-row, it will be one enormous piece of evidence that Coach Neuheisel is the real deal and that this is only the beginning. Old Bruin teams of the past decade(s) would more than likely lose the next two games, or split them at best... We win out, however, and it's the first step toward building this program toward what we all want, a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (notice, I'm not emphasizing a mere Pac-10 championship or a Rose Bowl berth, or beating SC, a la those Donahue teams). We want to be a top-5 team every year... every year! It's time we think this way. I think CRN is thinking the same thing if we win out... first step is making 2009 into one huge step forward.
So, we have one gigantic challenge before us. If we pull it off, we know that thud heard 'round the world of college football today will actually mean something. I don't know about you, but I believe it can happen.