I count ten possible scenarios for the rest of the season. I thought it would be interesting to run them down and try to sort out how I'd feel if we did this and that. What follows are my thoughts, ranging from total disaster to one heck of a year. (Also, tell me if I missed a possibility/scenario.)
Scenario 1: We lose to both ASU and Southern Cal and lose the bowl game. Final record: 8-5
This would be incredibly disappointing and give us reason to question the entire Mora regime and the direction of the program. It would represent a step back from last season and would be the second year in a row the team lost it's last three games.
Scenario 2: We lose both, win bowl game. Final record: 9-4
Not quite as disappointing as the first scenario, but disappointing nonetheless. At best you could say the team failed to progress, didn't regress and we could try and console ourselves with the hope that next season is better than this season.
Scenario 3: We beat ASU, lose to Southern Cal, lose bowl game. Final record: 9-4
Same as scenario Number 2 above. Maybe it's slightly better because we beat ASU instead of a random bowl opponent. Still, a disappointment based on where we are right now.
Scenario 4: We beat ASU, lose to Southern Cal, win bowl game. Final record: 10-3
Not ideal, but at least it gets us to 10-3. Slight improvement over last year, though the loss to Southern Cal would put a huge damper on the season, no doubt. Not what we're hoping for, but given a pretty tough schedule, it's hard to feel totally horrible about a 10 win year. But, it would be a MEH "10 win" season ala Dorrell's one in 2005.
Scenario 5: We lose to ASU, beat Southern Cal, lose bowl game. Final record: 9-4
Similar to Number 3 above, but better because it's better to beat Southern Cal than ASU. Another nine win season, but it's two straight against Southern Cal and at least we didn't lose our last three games.
Scenario 6: We lose to ASU, beat Southern Cal, win bowl game. Final record: 10-3
Similar to number 4 above. It's a ten win season, with a win over Southern Cal. I would say this would be a better year than Karl Dorrell's 10 win season because that team had Maurice Jones-Drew to carry it. Progress over last season and gives us something to look forward to next year.
Scenario 7: We beat both ASU and Southern Cal, lose in P12CG, lose bowl game. Final record: 10-4
Under this scenario we're the Pac 12 South champs but clearly not ready for either Stanford or Oregon, most likely Oregon, on the road. It would be unfortunate to lose our last two games, but those losses would be against undeniable quality opponents. Another ten win scenario, but with 4 losses, all to really good teams. I would be okay here, with the hope that the team matures and makes its move in 2014.
Scenario 8: We beat both ASU and Southern Cal, lose P12CG, win bowl game. Final record: 11-3
Now, we're talking great season. This - believe it or not - would be UCLA's first 11 win season. This is an 11-3 team that would rank as one of the best since the undefeated 1954 team. No Terry Donahue team did better than 10-2.Definite progress, definitely sets the stage for next season.
Scenario 9: We win both, win P12CG, lose bowl game. Final record: 11-3
A truly great season that even the most ardent pessimists would consider successful. This would be an 11 win team with losses at Stanford, at Oregon and against probably an unbeaten Ohio State team in the Rose Bowl. As much as I'd love to see scenario 10 below come to pass, I'd take this one right now if offered by the football gods.
Scenario 10: We win both, win P12 CG, win bowl game. Final record: 12-2
If we win out, we'll finish 12-2 and one could easily make the case that it was the best Bruins season ever other than the aforementioned national title team that went unbeaten at 9-0. This team would have closed out with wins over ASU, Southern Cal, at Oregon and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. This scenario would lead to what would feel like the longest off season of my life time, the anticipation for next year would make time stop. The only thing close would be the off season in between 97 and 98 when we spent the winter and spring sitting on a 10 game winning streak that we eventually ran up to 20. If this last scenario some how became reality, we would open next season ranked in the Top Five.
If I had to make an optimistic prediction, I would go with Number 8, win out the regular season, lose up at Oregon and win a bowl game to finish a very nice 11-3.
The scary thing is none of these scenarios seem totally impossible. A few improbable scenarios, but none that seem totally impossible.