The Pac 10 has been really strong and balanced this year without any weak competition to provide sure wins. Just ask Arizona. They were undefeated and looked great in their out of conference games and were riding high with a top 10 ranking after beating Iowa. Then they started Pac 10 play and lost at home to Oregon St. putting them at around #14. They managed to beat Cal by 1 pt. and after handily beating Washington & Washington St. they almost didn't get past us. And then the bottom fell out with consecutive losses to Stanford, USC, Oregon, and now Arizona St.
Sure Arizona had a better season than we did, but there is a similar quality to their season and ours. After beating Houston and especially Texas we were looking really good, and people were starting to feel like we might have a 9 win season. Then conference play began, and the reality was that our conference competition was much stronger than anything we saw out of conference. The same thing has happened to Arizona undoubtedly a talented and very good team who now finishes with five losses and a losing conference record. But if the whole conference being competitive weren't bad enough, this year every team could automatically factor in two sure losses to Oregon and Stanford in effect starting two losses in the hole. Cal couldn't get 6 wins, Oregon St. likely won't get 6 wins, Washington is struggling to get 6 wins. And formerly #9 Arizona now has 5 conference losses, a losing record in conference, and ends the season with a four game conference losing streak.
How does this all relate to UCLA football?
1. It's become very tough to win in this conference. As Arizona shows you can be even a very good team and still wind up with a losing conference record. The strength of the conference is definitely a major contributing factor to our poor won-loss record this year.
2. Never get too excited about early season out of conference wins. In the last two seasons they have indicated absolutely nothing about how successful we would be in conference play. The time to get excited about our team's performance is when we are winning with some consistency in conference play.
3. Those who are demanding that next year we win at least 8 games or the coaching staff has to go are being unrealistic. It is definitely a realistic hope that may be within reach. However in this conference at this point it is an unreasonable demand. Only two teams in the conference this year may wind up winning 8 games, and they're both top 5 teams nationally. And in fact they are the only two teams currently with a winning record in the conference. Everyone else has at least 4 conference losses with some pretty good teams struggling just to win 6 games and become bowl eligible.