In case you have not had a chance to read I highly encourage folks to read the Part 3 of our season round-table in which some of our frontpagers sounded-off on next year's season expectations (with Brett Hundley leading the program). I will go ahead and excerpt that part here (emphasis mine):
What are your expectations for 2014 football season if Brett Hundley returns next season?
What about if he declares for the draft?
Uclaluv: I expect UCLA to get to the Rose Bowl and possibly to the final four. If Brett doesn't return, I still expect to go to the Rose Bowl. I think Asiantii will impress.
bruinclassof10: Devin Lucien took the words right out of my mouth. A national championship should be the goal if Hundley returns.
If he declares for the draft, I still expect a 10-win season with the talent on our roster.
Odysseus: A national championship would be the goal, but I would say Pac-12 championship would be the expectation if Brett returns.
If he leaves, I also think Woulard will be a good quarterback, but my expectations would be more along the lines of Pac-12 South champs.
Achilles: As above, I respectfully pass.
gbruin: If Brett comes back, we have a chance to be a top 5 team, barring injuries and SPTR's and other unpredictable occurrences. I
f Brett goes pro, all bets are off because I can't predict how effective the offense will be with a brand new QB.
IE Angel: With Hundley, a team that makes the first NCAA playoff and wins the Pac-12.
If he declares, I still expect a team that is in position to win the Pac-12 and be in the first NCAA playoffs.The talent on defense is second to no one in the conference, even with losing three NFL players. The entire offensive line could return, and even if XSF leaves to the NFL there are 6 players with significant starting experience and elite talent. The incoming talent will have an impact at multiple positions. There is no excuse for not being a top flight Pac-12 program every year with the talent in the program.
Ajax: If Hundley returns, I expect a Rose Bowl and/or National Title contention.
Without Hundley, I would have to see how his replacement pans out after spring practice. With the talent returning, I think a QB that can manage the offense should at least be able to lead the Bruins to a PAC 12 South title.
DCBruins: Assuming Mora returns, I expect a PAC 12 south title and top 10 ranking.
AHMB: We're set up for conference title contention and potentially a BCS bowl.
So the overwhelming majority of us expect this team should be in national title contention and at the very least win the Pac-12 championship. Now of course, it's premature to talk about next year now but then again who really wants to talk about our basketball program. But it's fun -- but we also are aware of the reality about how difficult it is to get to that national championship game.
While we are all being reasonably optimistic about a national title run, we get how brutal the Pac-12 schedule can be. Moreover, we will have to navigate a silly out-of-conference slate as our incompetent AD set up a "neutral" game against what we should expect a fired up Texas Longhorns programs under their new coach in the Jerry Dome. Lot of things can go happen, and you need little bit of luck, often multiple miracles, a soft schedule (cough*SEC*cough) to get to that game.
Still, it's kind of awesome to be in a position where we can realistically talk about UCLA being one of the early contenders for a national title next season.
And, no we are not the only one talking about this. Bruce Feldman - one of the most respected analysts in college football - pointed at UCLA as one of the early national championship contenders in 2014 (on Jim Rome's show on Tuesday afternoon):
Feldman believes the Seminoles have the personnel to repeat as National Champions in 2014, but expects stiff competition from the Pac 12.
"Two teams that I would keep an eye on are both West Coast teams," Feldman said. "Oregon lost De'Anthony Thomas, but Marcus Mariota is back, they kept their best cornerback, the anchor of their offensive line's back so I think that's good. Also, keep an eye on UCLA - they were really young on the offensive front and with Brett Hundley coming back, I think they have a chance to make a lot of noise in 2014."
Feldman is not the only one. As has been noted here multiple times already tWWL has UCLA ranked no. 7 in their ridiculously early 2014 pre-season rankings. CBS Sports has UCLA at no. 8, Athlon Sports has the Bruins at no. 9, and USA Today has the Bruins at no. 10.
I am sure these rankings will shift a bit based on what transpires during rest of this recruiting season, spring games and of course the long hot summer. But the sense around our program is clear. UCLA is now set up for perhaps it's most successful run since that magical 20 game winning stream we enjoyed during the halcyon years of No. 18.
I know we expected us to get to the Pac-12 championship games and the losses against Stanford and Arizona State stung. But, all in all most of us are pretty happy with how this team finished the last two games and have us positioned for something special in 2014.
It's been a long time. But the karma gods owe us for many heart-breaks. Ya know. Melsby's knee was down.