Those fickle sports gods were at it again. The perfect fall weekend last week is followed by the complete opposite for many of us, especially when you include some crappy outcomes in the NFL. Sometimes I just wish I wasn't a sports fan. Ever since I have been a UCLA Bruins fan, not a year goes by without our team coming out to a game unfocused and lackadaisical. Even our best teams have had a day like that, usually a very costly day, no matter the coach. It's getting old. Is it the water? Whatever. It's a bitter reality and it makes writing the poll a lot less fun. But I am going to make it a damn good writeup, just as our players should make it an awesome week of practice followed by a crisp performance next week.
Player of the Week: Jordan Webb, Colorado - the heart of a Buffalo! The Colorado QB was 29 of 42 for 345 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. But those numbers don't matter. He would be the player of the week even if those were horrible. No, it's about how Jordan won the game for Colorado. Down 6, 3:17 to go, ball at the Colorado 30. He took his team down the field...and with 11 seconds to go, 4th and goal at the 4 yard line...Webb calls an audible, QB run, wins the game. Baaalllllz!
Stat of the Week: 2 of 15 - UCLA's third down efficiency on Saturday. UCLA has converted only 18 of 63 third downs this season, or less than 29 percent and now ranks No. 115 in the nation in third-down conversion percentage for the season. C'mon Mazzone.
Game of the Week: Stanford at Washington, 6:00 pm PT, ESPN - a nice Thursday night game, but Bruin fans are all too aware of Thursday night games in Seattle...be it football or basketball. Good thing for Stanford that the game isn't at Husky stadium, but they need to be wary of a UCLA-style letdown after beating Southern Cal. The Huskies, meanwhile, got absolutely ripped by Sark during a beatdown of Portland State last week, so they could come out en fuego, looking to get back some respectability on the national scene after being demolished by LSU.
1. Oregon (4-0, 1-0): practice is over for the Ducks, but it doesn't matter. As they have done to so many teams in the past, they let their opponent hang around for a half before a sudden deluge of TDs. The speed on this team is unsettling...in a good way for them. A near flawless performance in the second half helped them preserve a shutout of Arizona, to the tune of 49-0, and earned them a #2 ranking in the polls. Next week they travel to Pullman to play the role of rude guests to Wazzu. I put the over-under in the first quarter at 35.
2. Stanford (3-0, 1-0): the Cardinal had a week off after beating the Trogans. They will try to avoid doing the UCLA when they travel to Seattle on Thursday to take on Washington.
3. Oregon State (2-0, 1-0): Focus, preparation and game smarts allowed the fresh Beavers to prevail at the Rose Bowl against an absent-minded UCLA team. A tough defense, coupled by simple yet highly effective playcalling by coach Mike Riley, made for a very tough Beaver team who was out to prove that the win over Wisconsin was no fluke. A rare road win has the Beavers back in the top 25 after a long hiatus. The contrast to last year's awful season is quite drastic. This week, OSU travels to the desert to take on a humbled Arizona team. A win there would raise even more eyebrows.
4. Washington (2-1, 0-0): The Huskies were off, in preparation for their Thursday night game against the visiting Cardinal. Sark threw a sizable tantrum in the last game, visibly upset at his team's performance during a rout of Portland State. We'll see if his team responds.
5. Cal (1-3, 0-1): I should know better than to rely on Cal to make me feel better after a UCLA loss. Cal actually has a decent defense (even though Southern Cal ran all over them). But their offense is simply not good. No matter how good a game Tedford calls, ultimately, the guy who touches the ball most has to step up. Zach Maynard is just not very good. I honestly do not know how he is Cal's starting QB. It's almost like he likes taking sacks (7 of them). The Bears likely have trouble with their offensive line, but the QB play has been atrocious. They were in this game until the 4th quarter, with Southern Cal not playing very well and giving the Bears every chance to get in the game, but the Trogan defense was too much for Maynard. With ASU visiting next week, the Bears have to revive their season against a seemingly solid Sun Devil squad, or things could unravel really quickly...if they haven't already.
6. Washington State (2-2, 0-1): the pirate had his loot stolen right from under him. Oh, what could have been for the Cougars. A 3-1 start, a Pac-12 victory. Instead, they squandered a 17-point 4th quarter lead, in dramatic fashion, giving up two huge bombs to Colorado and unable to seal the victory. It's not a big surprise (except that it was against Colorado). The Cougar defense is not good, and the offense cannot run the ball. It is of course reminiscent of Leach's Texas Tech teams, but those could usually score abundantly. Wazzu couldn't when it counted, and this one is going to burn for a while. Especially with the Ducks visiting next week.
1. Southern Cal (3-1, 1-1): Matt Barkley's Heisman fantasy took another dive this week, so it was up to Penn State poached Silas Redd to deliver the goods, and he did so for the Trogans, with some help from fellow RB Curtis McNeal. WR Marqise Lee is really, really good, and had 2 TDs (please don't put one of our toast twins on him, Mora). Barkley gave the Bears every chance to be in the game, but luckily his defense (or Zach Maynard) bailed him out repeatedly. The Trogans are off this week, before a Thursday night trip to Utah.
2. Arizona State (3-1, 1-0): an impressive, complete win for Todd Graham's new team. The Sun Devils beat Utah in every aspect of the game, racing to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. QB Taylor Kelly (where'd he come from?!) was magnificent, throwing for 326 yards and 3 TDs against what is supposedly a good Utah defense. The Sun Devil defense was also very good, holding the Utes to only 209 total yards, and limiting Ute running back John White to 18 yards. A win at Cal next week could have ASU in the top 25.
3. Arizona (3-1, 0-1): Welcome to Autzen, RichRod. Rodriguez was probably feeling pretty good after the first half against Oregon. His team hung in there and could even have been ahead without some mistakes. But he soon learned about the Duck tease, one so familiar to the rest of the conference. Matt Scott's 3 interceptions made him blow his first Pac-12 gasket and the Ducks offense just gave him indigestion. Don't worry Rich, it happens to just about every team. It wasn't a bad outing by the Wildcats, whose defense played well until the second half, but they were clearly the weaker team. Next week's home game against Oregon State should be a good one.
4. UCLA (3-1, 0-1): I once ate at Panda Express on campus...the feeling in my stomach afterwards was not much different than what I felt the rest of the weekend. I thought last week's lack of focus was due to the late start, so I was happy about our early game. Now I wish I could have enjoyed the rest of the games before watching our unfocused, undisciplined, mistake-prone squad put in another stinker. When will it sink in for these players and coaches? When will seniority finally take a back seat? When will the coaches realize that these types of games have become all too commonplace at UCLA and that they were brought in with handsome paychecks to put an end to them? If our team played with the focus and discipline that the Beavers demonstrated, they could seriously make a run at a great season, with no limits, and the youth excuse simply doesn't fly. It's up to the coaches to get them there, and to put the team in a position to win. Four years of seeing the same players screw up the same way should be enough. Culture change, attitude change: so far, we've seen it only for one and a half game. They'd better shake off that loser mentality before traveling to Colorado. The Buffs' win on Saturday could have them believing in themselves and playing with purpose.
5. Utah (2-2, 0-1): the Utes have never been a very good road team, and this week was no different as they were manhandled by Arizona State without ever being in the game. The Ute offense has disappeared over the last two years (except of course when they played UCLA last year), but surprisingly the defense has not been itself either, essentially losing the game in the first quarter. Losing their starting QB could have a lot to do with that. Had it not been for some luck against BYU, this team could easily be 1-4. Kyle Willingham gets a week off to refocus before taking on Southern Cal at home sweet home.
6. Colorado (1-3, 1-0): from the depths of darkness, avoiding the spiraling vortex of an 0-12 season, Jordan Webb reached for the light and brought victory to his Buffaloes. An amazing 4th quarter comeback was capped by Webb's final play, unleashing a celebration not seen in ages for Colorado. A proud day for Jon Embree, who desperately needed some good things to happen to his program with so many young players (funny, their youth excuse got them a big victory!). Has the tide turned for the Buffs, or did they just catch the bad Cougar defense napping? We'll know when UCLA visits next week, in what should be a raucous stadium for a matchup between the first place team and the last place team in the Pac-12 South...
It's a long season, but UCLA fans have every right to be concerned. All the ugly memories of the last decade reared their heads on Saturday. Injuries, lack of focus, bad coaching. We had it all in a stinking pot pourri. Time to refresh and get back on track in Boulder. Enjoy the week.