For lot of legitimate reasons there is a sense of doom and gloom heading into upcoming UCLA football season. Bruin football has not been a lot of fun since the days of Cade McNown and folks cannot blame UCLA alums, students and fans for being in a foul mood. As glorious a run we have had on this blog for 6+ years we have not had the chance to celebrate a great football season. That "10 win" season from 2005-06 season did not count for the reasons that had be discussed ad nausea before.
All this said, I am feeling a sense of calm and even hopeful heading into next season. The early look at the 2011 schedule by tasser10 generated lively discussion and more sense of despair. But in the comment thread of tasser's post there was a money post from KnudsenRockne. KnudsenRockne essentially laid out an "Eye Test" for 2011 football season:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
5) Do our players execute?
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
KR went on to note that he will "tolerate a losing season" if Bruins play like champs - "like real champs."
He then asked the question when was the last time Bruins played like that? We haven't seen Bruins play like that since 1998-99 football season. KR makes a pretty big point though. He said it is not about how many games Bruin win next season, even though we all understand Bruins will at least need to have a winning season.
But for those who have been following the Bruins for a long time, think back to 1993-94 seasons. That team started out with a 0-2 record with heart-breaking losses to California and to Nebraska. Yet, it was battling in every game and then eventually battled its way through an 8 win regular season, finishing the season with Pac-10 champions. It didn't win as many games as Karl Dorrell's third year football team, but to Bruin observers who got to see both of those teams, there were no doubt which was the better team.
I think Coach Rick Neuheisel knows as well as anyone what is expected from the football program next season. Ultimately it will not matter how many games the Bruin end up winning, even though I feel a sense of calm about our chances heading into next year. It will be all about meeting the kind of "Eye Test" KR set out above. If the Bruins can find a way to pass it, everything else will take care of itself. By the way same test should be applied to our basketball program for next season as well.