Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there in the wider Bruins Nation! On today, of all days, we get the chance to really step back and consider all that we, as Bruins, have to be thankful for. And, of course, at the top of that list for all of us is Coach Jim Mora, Brett Hundley, Johnathan Franklin, and the rest of our UCLA football team for their total victory over Southern Cal. It feels good to be thankful for reclaiming not only the Victory Bell, but for driving a stake into the heart of Southern Cal's program and setting up UCLA to reclaim Los Angeles for the foreseeable future.
What a difference a year makes: last Thanksgiving, we were watching Rick Neuheisel, a great Bruin but not a great coach, lead our Bruins to another disappointing stumbling end-of-the-year performance, which culminated in a humiliating 50-0 beat-down, with back-up running back Anthony Barr gaining one yard on one carry and watching arrogant Trojan prick QB Matt Barkley run up the score. Now, the Bruins are the kings of Los Angeles and Matt Barkley's college career ended with his face driven into the Rose Bowl turf thanks to starting OLB Anthony Barr.
On the flip side, Ben Howland, who was getting humiliated by fourth-tier garbage programs from who-the-hell-knew-this-POS-school-existed-type institutions like Middle Tennessee State, still hasn't found a way to put it together, sticking with his ineffective, boring starting line-up with both Wear twins, getting upset by Georgetown and barely squeaking by the likes of Georgia and UC Irvine. So, we have at least one program to be thankful for, right?
Of course, when we turn away from sports, we do have a lot to be thankful for as Bruins. For those of us here at BN, we are first and foremost thankful for all of you, the readers, contributors, and others who come to this community and bring your insightful commentary, unique perspectives, and hilarious senses of humor. Thank you for making writing here so enjoyable. And of course, as Bruins, we are thankful for the fact that we get to be part of the greatest university in the world: that we get to stroll down Bruin Walk, have lunch at Ackerman Union, study on the lawn between Royce Hall and Powell Library, and live by the principles of Coach Wooden. So, while our basketball program still has a very long way to go (and likely not with Ben Howland at the helm) and our athletic department is run by an incompetent goon, we should always remember how great it is to be a Bruin and to be thankful for it.
So with that said, let's turn to a special edition round-up of the bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse on this Turkey Day:
- In case you missed it, Damien Thigpen's knee injury turned out to be about as bad as we all feared: the junior running back and kick returner tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Thigpen's loss will be a blow to the Bruins, but we'll need him to take his time, recover fully, and come back strong next year when he and Jordon James will be asked to shoulder the load once the Mayor graduates and heads to the NFL.
Speaking of Jordon James, the Long Beach Press-Telegram has a feature of the running back and his gold mohawk. The redshirt sophomore will be relied on, both in the running game and the return game, with Thigpen out injured and Steven Manfro ineffective in fielding punts (and "ineffective" is being generous, since he managed to make me actually miss the days of Stone Hands Embree fielding punts). It'll be a big test for James' long-term viability in the post-Jet Ski era, as he'll be one of the backs returning next year that Mora will look to carry the load (especially with Malcolm Jones deciding to transfer). Let's hope we see a lot of #6 going for six on Saturday.
- If you're looking for a neutral point of view on where UCLA stacks up in the Pac-12, Steve Gress at the Corvallis Gazette-Times has the Bruins pegged as the #2 team in the conference, behind only Stanford in his most recent power rankings. The Bruins can gear up for a run at a very special season if they can take care of business against the formidable Cardinal offense.
- If you're confused about who we will be playing in the Pac-12 title game, CBS Sports has a break-down of the various scenarios. The basic gist is that if Stanford beats us on Saturday, then regardless of the outcome of the Civil War in Oregon, Stanford will host UCLA in Palo Alto on November 30. If UCLA beats Stanford this weekend and Oregon beats the Beavers, then UCLA travels to Eugene to take on the Ducks on November 30. If the Bruins beat the Cardinal and Oregon State upsets Oregon (doesn't seem impossible now, does it?), then UCLA would host Stanford at the Rose Bowl for the title game. Confused? Blame the tiebreakers.
- Finally, Coach Mora went on the Dan Patrick Show and said that he doesn't "give a rat's ass about USC." Mora has since clarified that his full comment was edited, that the full quote was that he didn't "give a rat's ass about USC, we're thinking about Stanford," denying that his remarks were meant as a dig at Southern Cal. Foster at the L.A. Times does a bit of concern trolling, reminding folks of Mora's comments re: UCLA not having murders a block from campus (which is factually true of Westwood, and not true of Southern Cal's locale) and that the person who impersonated Goforth on Twitter was a pitiful coward. Coach Mora, don't change it up. We love it when you say this kind of stuff. We don't give a rat's ass about Southern Cal: you punked them out and we look forward to you punking them out again and again in the future. We think it's awesome that you call it as you see it, because, well, Westwood is safe and Southern Cal is in a dump. Trojans, go cry me a river.
Alright folks, those are your special edition Turkey Day Bruin Bites. There's not a lot of action in the college football world today, with TCU at #16-ranked Texas at 4:30 p.m. PT the only Division I contest, but there will be plenty of NFL action, with Houston at Detroit at 9:30 a.m. PT, followed by Washington at Dallas at 1:25 p.m. PT and New England at the New York Jets at 5:20 p.m. PT. So, if you're keeping score, we'll have a handful of Bruins to watch today (Khalil Bell - New York Jets; Kenyon Coleman - Dallas; Kai Forbath - Washington; Logan Paulsen - Washington; Matt Slater - New England). So, we'll be using this as our Thanksgiving football open thread as well.
Have a great long holiday weekend and be safe in your travels. Fire away with your thoughts, additions, comments in the thread.