PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 08: It's a bye week -- everyone is in a good mood. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
It’s our bye week and I’m in a good mood.
Without a UCLA game to go to, I’m going to spend my Saturday on personal stuff. My plan (for the moment) is to wake up early, drive up into the Santa Monica mountains and go for a long walk on one of the fire roads. One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles, is that you’re able to escape the urban setting and experience a little nature and solitude within the city limits. Is there another major metropolitan city that allows you do just disappear without really leaving?
For me, it’s a time to refresh my batteries and regroup, which is something I hope the Bruins football team is able to do this weekend. It’s the halfway point of the season – another way of saying that it’s the beginning of the second half.
Let's begin with the conclusion:
Rick Neuheisel must succeed as our football coach.
If you accept that basic premise, than whatever standards of success anyone might unilaterally set become quite beside the point because this type of measurable obscures the reality of UCLA football in 2011. And that reality is that Rick Neuheisel's failure would be our failure -- representing a cataclysmic implosion of a once proud college football franchise whose wait for a Rose Bowl win is roughly a quarter century.
Then I went on to discuss the reasons why, including my lack of confidence in Dan Guerrero to hire a great football coach and how the UCLA culture impedes success in football.
Then I wrote:
Rick Neuheisel must ultimately succeed because his failure would represent a bottoming out of the program. If he goes, we are really back to Square One. We'd become an expansion team. We'd sink from irrelevant to obscure. We just can't start all over again.
Since then, I’ve spent the whole season basically disagreeing with myself. I’ve suffered through all the home games in person and struggled to watch the road games and after each one came to the conclusion that Rick must go. Even when we win, we don’t look good. When we lose, we look simply terrible.
But the simple truth is, we still have a chance to have a pretty good season. There isn’t a team left on the schedule that we can’t beat. Maybe I’m just giddy after watching USC whip Cal, but as bad as we’ve been – there isn’t a team on our schedule that we can’t beat.
Arizona has looked horrible, they haven’t beaten a decent team since they beat us last season (were we even a decent team last season?). Cal doesn’t look much better, they seem to be racing us to bottom in an effort to replace Tedford before we replace Neuheisel – sort of a “loser gets Leach” competition. Utah has found out that Wyoming doesn’t play in the Pac 12 and Colorado is the one team we’re sure we’ll top in the Pac 12 South standings. The only decent teams left on the schedule are Arizona State and USC and both are very, very beatable.
Maybe that sounds like faint praise – we might win some games because our opponents are even worse than we are. But, so what? Maybe all we need is a little momentum, maybe all we need is for a few good things to start happening and then the confidence starts to build and ….
Shoot, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Because the truth is Nick Foles and Matt Barkley are good quarterbacks. Because the truth if Washington State had scored touchdowns instead of field goals when they got inside the ten, they might have blown us out.
I think the rest of the season is going to be determined by our defense. The offense is actually decent through this point in the season and the play calling against Washington State might have been the best I’ve seen in two years. Shaq Evans last touchdown was a beautifully drawn up play, for example, and we got open deep at least a couple of times. One thing I really liked was that after Randall Carroll dropped that one deep ball, we went right back to him and he caught a pass near the sideline. In the past, he was one of the guys who got buried after a mistake. This time, we went right back to him.
But the defense has been bad. No other way to put it.
We are 118th out of 120 on third down conversion defense. That’s terrible. We’re 10th in the conference in total defense. That’s almost as terrible. We must improve on the defensive side of the ball.
But we have a chance to do just that. We have a chance to clear the slate, start all over. Like I said just above, you start with a few wins, you build some confidence, you start just playing instead of worrying about playing and good things start to happen.
Let’s hope they do. If they don’t, it will be Rick Neuheisel who’s taking the hike – whether we like it or not.
With that, here are your pregame guesses, bye week edition:
- Who will cover the point spread in the Rick Neusheisel Bowl, Colorado + 16.5 @ Washington?
- Which number will be higher -- the number of turnovers Utah commits @ Pitt or the number of rushing touchdowns Oregon State scores at home against BYU?
- Who will score more points, Stanford at Washington State or Oregon at home against Arizona State?