No we are not in the Top 25 nor are we going to be competing with LSU or Oklahoma State for the BCS national title. And certainly nobody on our team is a Heisman candidate.
But, that being said, UCLA, at least on paper, has an opportunity to outright win the inaugural Pac-12 and earn a Rose Bowl berth. Wow, did I just write that? If someone said that to me 2 weeks ago when we got destroyed in Tucson, I would've smacked them in the face.
In many ways, this is great news. This is fantastic news! But at the same time, looking back, it's a sad reflection of what we've endured and what we've finally hoped for.I've been a UCLA football fan ever since my freshman year in 2008 (sorry old timers, but I didn't get into college football until I actually went to college). The first time I entered the Rose Bowl was on a sunny Saturday afternoon literally 1 day after I moved into my dorm in Hedrick Summit. The Rose Bowl was a beautiful sight and the field was so alive. I had high hopes for the Bruins after witnessing the miracle of the Tennessee game where Kevin Craft threw 4 interceptions and came back to win it against a Top 25 SEC team. Unfortunately for me, that afternoon we played the Arizona Wildcats and my first live UCLA game resulted in a loss. It wasn't until my 3rd home game that I finally saw my first UCLA victory live at the Rose Bowl.
As the season went on though, I learned that UCLA didn't really have anything to play for. We finished 4-8 that year, but honestly, it was "okay" due to the circumstances. I mean, it was Rick's first year, and Kevin Craft, a 3rd stringer, was our quarterback. It was bound to be better next year. Right?
And it was.....but not really. I think at the time, my sophomore year was exciting only because I had the opportunity to watch UCLA in the postseason. But in hindsight, did the Eaglebank Bowl mean that much? It was important for us because it was the next stage in Rick's 5 Year Plan. We were like the Russians industrializing. Soon we would be a juggernaut. In retrospect, the rest of the nation could've cared less. Win or lose, UCLA was still irrelevant. There would be no conference title, there would be no Heisman winner, or Johnny Unitas award, or Outland Trophy. And even though we won our Eaglebank Bowl, to me, the entire season was just a year of anticipation to see what would happen next season (no offense to the team for a hard won season and bowl game).
But what was anticipated never happened. It was my junior year and 4-8 happened again. Disappointment. Agony. What was the point of that football season? Why did I even watch the games? There was no relevancy to what we did. Nothing was on the line. And I think this was how a lot of the team felt too. What was the point of even investing the emotions into UCLA football? It was all irrelevant. Honestly I thought we were the L.A. Clippers of college football. Except we didn't have a Blake Griffin on the team to keep things exciting.
Then senior year happened. I had little hopes, and UCLA football, being the UCLA football it has always been, certainly did not disappoint. The Arizona game was something I was never going to forget. What a way to end my senior year. Going out with a bang right? Then, for the first time ever, I said to my self, "I'm not going to watch any more games this season." I can't. I've invested 3 years into this and there's been no ENJOYMENT from this. At least all the older guys can remember the glory days of Cade McNown, the 8 year streak against $C, and the 80's Rose Bowls. What do I have? My glory days were victories over Washington State. I just couldn't do it anymore. Usually you go to football games to have fun right? Well I literally went to football games to feel...MISERABLE! Like my girlfriend just dumped me or something. Masochism much? So yeah. I didn't watch the Cal game. At all.
And then...all of a sudden...I start receiving texts from friends that we were not only winning, but we were DOMINATING Cal. Strange. Very strange indeed. Somehow we ended up beating Cal.
I decided not to watch the Arizona State game either, thinking the Cal game was merely a fluke. BAM! Texts flood my cellphone "ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?!?!" and "75 YARD BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!" What in the world...? What's going on here? They meant Arizona State right? Turns out, we won the game. Wow. We won the game! Shortly afterward, of course after lurking around on Bruinsnation, it hits me. UCLA has the opportunity to win the inaugural Pac-12 conference title. Not only that, UCLA has the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl game. No, scratch that. UCLA is RELEVANT in football? Excuse me?! Stop talking right now, I've been a student here for 3 years now. This is blasphemous! But no, it's not. It's all there. The pieces are aligned. For the first time in a long time, my university's football team has light at the end of its tunnel. There is actually MEANING to this season. This isn't a pointless season. This isn't another 4-8. This isn't another small time bowl game. This is for Roses. We're playing for conference titles. We're playing for national prominence. We're playing for GLORY.
Except just one thing stands in our path. Well, 4 things really, but basically: "Win out." Uh, yeah man. Win out. All or nothing. Do or die. Win the next game, the Roses live on. Lose the next game, go home.
The road is going to be hard and nothing is certain. We can end it all next week if we lose to Utah. Or we can continue plowing through and win 1 big for the ages. 9-4 UCLA Rose Bowl Champion? Hey Bruin fan. It's no dream. It's a small window, but it's all we need. Do we have what it takes to make a season comeback for the ages? Or are we going to fade away into irrelevancy once more? You decide Bruin fan.
The only thing I have to ask you is this:
Should I just stop watching all UCLA football games for the rest of the season?
Edit:**I just want to say, I feel that UCLA has put itself in a situation where it feels like it is in a playoff. They will advance after they beat each opponent. If they just lose one, they are eliminated [from Pac-12/Rose Bowl contention]. That's why this is suddenly very interesting to watch.