Opportunities multiply as they are seized. - Sun Tzu
The good stuff first...
It's a good morning here in Colorado. Last night's game makes my life here infinitely easier. Ever since CU joined our conference last spring, all I've heard is that U.C.L.A. was soft, that Neuheisel was the devil, that the finesse Pac-10 teams didn't want to face a powerful Big 12 team. I knew all of this was ridiculous, but now I have the scoreboard to prove it. However, I know a lot of good people here who are Buffs alums and diehards, and I don't like seeing them suffer, but right now, better them than me.
It was fun to watch our Bruins lay a pounding on an opponent. I was really happy for the seniors to go out on such a high note. That was the kind of game we have been expecting from the Bruins when facing a weaker opponent for 3 years. I'm glad they finally brought it.
Before the Neubs emerge from the ruins of Salt Lake City and get excited and say we've turned a(nother) corner, let me remind everyone that this was Colorado. This was 2 and 9 Colorado. This was no road wins in 4 years Colorado. This was 38 points per game giving up Colorado.
This win should have been expected. But that didn't stop CU fans from thinking they had a great shot of ending their road losing streak last night. It didn't stop the CU quarterback from guaranteeing a win, and for their coach to back up his QB's words. When a 2-9 team thinks they have you lined up, you aren't commanding a lot of respect. Of course, it's not like we have been going out and demanding respect. Just take this example from our head coach:
As Rick Neuheisel was walking off the field, following a 45-6 drubbing of the worst team in the conference on Senior Night at the Rose Bowl, he was asked about the idea of playing for the Pac-12 South title and a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game.
"Not a lot of people thought we could do that"
You're wrong, Rick. A lot of people thought we could, and should do just that. Apparently, you weren't aware of this. This is our gutty little coach playing the underdog martyr card. This quote never should have existed. And this quote is a perfect example of why we need new leadership in the athletic department and on the football field.
First of all, we at Bruins Nation have been saying this since the start of the season. Kirk Herbstreit said it on national television. Looking at our roster, looking at our schedule, and looking at the weak Pac-12 South Division, it was pretty obvious that U.C.L.A. should be contending for the division title. When favorite ASU began faltering along the way, this became even more apparent. To say that not a lot of people thought we would be here is disingenuous. Being a game away from the conference championship should not be seen as a happy coincidence. That quote just shows how passive and uncompetitive we have become.
It's too late to low-ball the fan base into thinking that we should be happy just to be in the conversation. We are done with you and your acceptance of mediocrity, Rick. Because really, the opposite is true. We should be furious that we are in this position at all. Yes, we thought we would be fighting it out with Arizona State, but they can't get out of their own way and lost again tonight. With one week left, we have a one game lead over both ASU and Utah. Win next week over the hated trogans, and we're in the conference title game (which may actually hurt our bowl chances - more on that later). But lose, and it will come down to a variety of scenarios, with ASU, Utah, and us all having a chance.
The division was set up perfectly for us this year. All we had to do was take it.
But then there was Arizona and that horrendous nationally televised beatdown in Tuscon to a team that hadn't beaten an FBS team since, well, us the year before. A team that had about the worst defense in the nation. A team that had just promoted the leader of that defense to be leader of the whole stinking team. A team that got destroyed by Colorado one week ago.
Last night's game against Colorado is the kind of game we should have played against San Jose State. It was the kind of game we should have played against Oregon State, or Washington State. It was the kind of game we should have played against Arizona.
But it was Arizona who played this kind of game against us. And that's why we are where we are, not only in the standings, but in our mindset. And it's our mindset that has you on the ejection seat, Rick, not the standings. Because you could not take care of business against inferior teams. Imagine if our wins over San Jose State and Oregon State and Washington State weren't 4th quarter nail biters. Imagine if we had run up this score against any of them. Imagine if our losses to Texas or Stanford or Utah were at least close? How much more belief would we have in you and your program, Rick, that this team was reaching its potential, instead of underachieving yet again?
It's just the way Coach said. You stress practice and improvement to the point that you always give your best effort, and then the wins and losses take care of themselves. Did we give Houston and Texas our best performances possible? How about Utah? Or even our wins against SJSU and OSU and WSU? And what about Arizona?
Because if we had given our best performance in Arizona, then we would have beaten a then 1-5 team in disarray. And that would leave us today at 7-4 overall, 6-2 in conference, already winners of the Pac-12 South. How would the tone around BN sound then?
Instead, we are 5-4 in conference, with a one game lead over ASU and Utah, and that gives us these scenarios:
If we win next week, we win the south and play Oregon or Stanford.
If we lose, and if ASU and Utah both win, we are in a 3 way tie and ASU wins the tiebreaker.
If we lose, and ASU wins and Utah loses, we advance for having beaten them head to head
If we lose and ASU loses and Utah wins, Utah advances for having beaten us head to head.
If all 3 lose, everyone laughs at us, and we advance by maintaining our one game lead.
Think the trogans are salivating at the possibility of knocking us down?
If Neuheisel and his staff and his team had simply played to their level of ability and talent, what would our season have looked like? Do you think we could have overcome a 4 pt difference in Houston, either by playing better defense or better offense/special teams? What if our wins over SJSU and OSU and WSU were solid or even dominating? Have there been any games this year where we played over our heads and won a game we shouldn't have? Because there are certainly some losses we should not have. If Rick had seized his opportunity against a spiraling Arizona team, how many more opportunities would there be for this program?
Well, for starters, they would have every one of those scenarios in the box already covered.
But, for all of the numerous reasons we have documented with this program under his guidance, those opportunities weren't seized. And instead of our seeing them multiply, we have seen them diminish. In the end, it's really a shame that our group of seniors who have worked so hard for their U.C.L.A. careers got only one game like last night when they destroyed a team they should have, and that everyone knew was coming.
You're wrong, Rick. A lot of people thought you could have done that. We just didn't think it would have been this big of an upset to get there. You have another opportunity next Saturday against our hated rival. What say we seize that one, too.