Pregame Guesses: Rice Owls Edition

Junkyard "Texas" and "Hollywood" live at the Whisky a Go Go July 27, 2012 (via MPROSHOWS)

(For this week's video, I decided to go with this live performance of Junkyard performing "Texas" and "Hollywood." I was going to go with some ZZ Top, but this seemed appropriate considering who's playing. This was shot at The Whiskey about a month ago during a Junkyard reunion show. Old school punk fans will recognize Brian Baker of Minor Threat and Bad Religion on guitar.)

It’s been a long, long offseason.

On one hand, it’s been about nine months, nine months that saw us replace just about the whole coaching staff and start fresh with Jim Mora and a staff of coaches heavy on NFL experience.

On the other, I feel like it’s lasted nine years – nine long years squandered on a pair of head coaches who by all accounts were nice guys and good Bruins, which for some was enough. Hell, for some, it might still be enough; the athletic director had to be strong-armed into making the most recent change and there are still a fairly vocal group of UCLA fans who believe Jim Mora’s predecessor would make a great AD himself.

One thing the last nine years has taught me, is that no matter how badly the school bungles the football program – at all levels – we can’t seem to bottom out. Unlike Cal and Stanford, we never sunk down to a 1-10 record like the Bears did under Tom Holmoe; we were never as bad as the Cardinal were when they went 2-9 under Buddy Teevens or 1-11 under Walt Harris. Why this is, I’m not exactly sure. It might be because we have always been able to get enough talent to win some games, but were never able to get that talent to consistently perform. Or it might be that the coaching was not as uniformly poor as I’ve thought and that there were always a few weeks out of the season when our coaches outperformed the guys on the other sidelines. In any case, I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how we’re going to do this season. I keep thinking (and have written before) that if we won six games last year all the changes have to add up to at least eight wins this season.

But, who knows?

I keep trying to get to the part where I write "But enough about the past …" and believe me, I really want to. But, I have to admit, I’m scarred. I’m weary. The past nine years have beaten me down; nine years of refusing to get excited, of not allowing myself to become too involved because I feared the eventual and inevitable letdown, that I’m having trouble turning over my enthusiasm engine, my battery requires recharging, my starter needs replacing, I’m running out of motor metaphors.

(more after the jump)

Sigh …

Deep mother-effing sigh …

Ready …

But enough about the past.

Really. I’m done with it. Won’t mention it again.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s game against the Rice Owls and am approaching it with a genuine sense of curiosity. I was able to attend a couple of spring practices and the scrimmage, but was unable to see any of the action in the fall. Of course, I saw plenty of what Noel Mazzone did on offense with Arizona State the past few seasons, though I get the feeling he modifies his approach to fit his talent, so what we saw last year with Brock Osweiler might not be a great indication of what we’re going to see tomorrow with Brett Hundley.

Again, I really don’t know what to expect, not exactly. Yes, we’re going to see those swing passes designed to get playmakers into space. But what wil be the run-pass ration? Dunno. Which of the receivers will Hundley look for when he needs a crucial first down, which guy will form that extra bit of chemistry with the quarterback like say Danny Farmer had with Cade McNown, that will make the catch we just have to have on fourth and long to keep a drive alive.

I’m actually more excited about the defense. Mora and Jim Spanos have committed to the 3-4 alignment, which I believe is more suited to stopping college spread offenses than the 4-3. They’ve done some very interesting things like moving all 205 pounds of Dalton Hilliard to linebacker (reminiscent of Carnell Lake – and, no, I’m not comparing Hilliard to Lake exactly). Our defensive line is a legitimate two deep at all three spots – again it’s 1998 all over again.

As for Rice, I haven’t been paying attention. Truth told, I’ve sort of respected them and their head coach David Bailiff ever since I saw this video. You see, Rice has a sizeable international student population – students who vaguely understand the importance of football in the state of Texas -- who just don’t know much about the game. So, Bailiff and his team do a clinic for the international students that looks like fun, educating them about everything from the rules of football to how to tailgate without being patronizing. It made me like the guy.

But there will be time enough to like the guy the rest of the season. Tomorrow, I hope he gets his ass kicked and that UCLA football begins to put the past behind.

With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Rice Owls edition:

  1. Who will score the first touchdown of the Jim Mora era?
  2. Which number will be higher: UCLA's total field goals or the number or Rice turnovers?
  3. How many true freshmen will get playing time against Rice?

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