Pregame Guesses: Arizona State Sun Devils Edition

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

With five games remaining in the season, the Bruins final chapter on the Bruins season is far from written. At this point, the team remains a work in progress.

Nirvana - Lake Of Fire (Live) (via killeryto)

(This week's video is "Lake of Fire" as performed by Kurt Cobain, with members of the Meat Puppets backing him up. The Meat Puppets are one of my favorite bands from the Phoenix area. The first time I saw them was at Perkins Palace in Pasadena on the same bill as Black Flag. Apparently, Cobain caught that tour as well, became a fan of the Puppets and asked them to play with Nirvana in the video. I considered going with The Supersuckers, but I already used them this season and also Alice Cooper, but, you know, ick. I was happy to find this video of Cobain and the Puppets performing a cool tune.)

Where were we?

Oh yeah …

You’ve probably seen this elsewhere this week, but to me, it bears repeating. From the Daily Bruin:

Coming off of a bye week, the UCLA football team is now looking to turn around a disturbing trend that plagued the team under its previous coach, Rick Neuheisel.

Over the past four years, the Bruins have gone 0-4 following a bye week, with a combined scoring margin of 41-191.

And the AD wanted to bring the prior coach back for another season.

The other stat I’ve been thinking about also relates to the prior coach. In his four seasons, he was 3-4 after seven games every time. If he were still on the sideline and those two trends held up, we’d be 3-5 Sunday morning and on Monday we’d be regaled with the notion that if we just correct a few mistakes we have a chance to finish strong and go 7-5.

Well, under Jim Mora we’re 5-2 after seven games and at worst we’ll be 5-3 Sunday morning. But for some reason I’m still concerned that we could finish 7-5.

I know. I know.

I know.

We’re not supposed to look past the next game. Got to stay focused and all that. Personally, I don’t buy it. I’m not on the team. I don’t have to stay focused and if I want to analyze next year’s schedule (we play Washington and Oregon, we don’t play Washington State and Oregon State) it won’t make one bit of difference on Saturday night in Tempe.

Truth is, Mora himself cracked the door for a "down the road" analysis. Check out yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

Mora lifted his one-game-at-a-time veil this week to allow the Bruins to take a peek.

"Not to get all philosophical, but I told them what Sun Tzu said: 'Opportunities multiply as they are seized,'" Mora said.

He then tried to slam the door shut:

"We don't want to talk too much about the long-term future," the coach added. "We want to talk about this game against Arizona State and doing our best to get a win."

Too late, I’m going to push it open, just for a little bit.

This is our football schedule the rest of the way:

October 27 @ Arizona State

November 3 vs. Arizona

November 10 @ Washington State

November 17 vs. USC

November 24 vs. Stanford

When I look at that, my focus immediately goes to the last two games. We get two of the best teams in the nation at home to close out the season. (I must admit, the traditionalist in me is still sort of bugged that the USC game is not the last game of the season. That’s the price you pay for annual games against Colorado and Utah. Yay.)

The way I look at it, Stanford looks like the better match up for us. They look to be a power running team and our front seven is much better than our back four. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not ready to chalk this up as an automatic win, but at least on paper (cue "the games aren’t played on paper, they’re played on grass" cliché) it looks like our strengths on defense at least counter what they like to do.

USC is another story. Trying to be as objective as possible, I don’t think they’re great. I don’t think they would beat Alabama and I think they’ll lose to Oregon. Oregon looks great. And I’m the one who wrote the "Barkley doesn’t look all that tough to me" fanpost earlier in the week. But on the other hand, they have two NFL wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise (seriously, there is no "u" after the "q"?) Lee and their third receiver, Xavier Grimble, is pretty damn good, too. Given the fact that our cornerbacks have been ineffective this year … well … let’s be very generous and simply say we’re going to have to play much better on defense to slow SC down.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say we split those last two games, which, working backwards, would make us 6-3 with three games to decide.

If we went into the year hoping to get to at least 8 regular season wins, an assumed split against the two best teams left on our schedule means we’ve got to win two out of the trips to Tempe and Pullman and the home game against Arizona.

I wasn’t sure until I started looking more closely at it, but I think two wins in the next three is really possible and if we beat ASU on the road there really is a pretty good chance we sweep and head into the SC game at 8-2, riding a four game winning streak. Not trying to rile up the rivals, but Arizona and Washington State have not been very good this year and while we definitely have not been great, we’ve been better than them. Arizona State has been about as good as we’ve been – the two team’s statistics are basically in the same ballpark – and there is no reason we can’t beat them if we play well.

So, even if we don’t sweep the next three and go 2-1 (plus the split against SC/Stanford) we’d be a semi-respectable 8-4 and with a trip to a mid-tier bowl game and a chance for a pretty legit, nine win season. Two of our four losses would have been to top ranked teams (Oregon State, plus the loss to either SC or Stanford). If that scenario came to pass, I think most people would assume we’d made progress as a program in Jim Mora’s first season and there would be a lot of excitement over the off season, what with Brett Hundley returning as a starter, the offensive line mostly returning intact and many key players on defense back as well.

But as I write my way through the rest of the season, there is something sort of bugging me. Because as easily as we could finish 3-2 or even 4-1 down the stretch, I could also see us going 2-3 or even 1-4. And both of those scenarios result in a much different feeling for the upcoming offseason.

The only conclusion I can draw at this point is that there is no conclusion at all. We are still a work in progress.

Let’s hope we progress.

With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Arizona State Edition:

  1. Which number will be higher, UCLA rushing touchdowns or Brett Hundley completions over 25 yards?
  2. Name a Bruin who either recovers an ASU fumble or intercepts an ASU pass.
  3. True or False: Jeff Locke will pin the Sun Devils inside their own 10 yard line at least two times in the game.
  4. Bonus Question: What will UCLA's record be in their next THREE games?

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