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SMQ Previews UCLA ...

Sunday Morning Quarterback ("SMQ") is a killer football blog if you are a college football junkie. It is run by one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and analytical writers in the college football blogosphere. And unlike some other so-called impartial college football bloggers, SMQ doesn't hide the fact that while he attempts to provide general commentary on all things college football, he is a homer when it comes to writing about his alma mater Southern Miss. Anyways, during this long off-season, SMQ has undertaken God's work, which is to write up posts previewing every single programs playing in D-1 college football. He has been writing up post after post speculating about the prospects of a random assortment of D-1 football programs. He couches them as absurdly premature assessments, but the level of information he provides in his previews is amazing. I mean he is tireless. A mark of a true college football junkie who is leaving no stone unturned considering he has taken time to preview teams like Buffalo and Akron. The guy is thorough and detailed and provides a level of analysis you are not going to find anywhere else (at this point of season) - either in the ever growing college football blogosphere or (God forbid) the traditional media. His recent posts over the Memorial Day weekend provided a preview of Karl Dorrell's football program. It is a must read. And there are points we agree and points we take issue with.

First he needs to update his logo on UCLA. He has the classic logo from UCLA which we used during the 90s. As most of you know, the new scripted logo looks a little different from the old version:

Old Logo New Logo

Come to think of it perhaps we should go back to the old logo, considering we were unbeaten against SUC using that logo, and also brought home banner no. 11 with it. Well that is a post for another day (maybe). Let's get back to the meat and potatoes of SMQ's "absurdly premature assessment" of UCLA. First the part I agree with. SMQ nails it when it comes to pointing out the amount of offensive talent Dorrell will have in his disposal going into the 2006 season:
WHAT'S THE SAME: The Drews and Lewis were the face of the top notch offense the past two seasons, but a good amount of mostly anonymous talent is back. SMQ has never heard of Chris Markey, Khalil Bell, Joe Cowan, Marcus Everett, Brandon Breazell, Gavin Ketchum or Ryan Moya, but combined they had 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season in the shadows of their more hyped teammates; that group does not include Junior Taylor, injured early in '05 but back for a run at the go-to receiver designation. A lot is going to depend on the new quarterback, sophomore Ben Olson, but the overall production returning is quality and deep, and even if it can't match last year's 39-point average, shouldn't be far behind.

MORMONS IN HOLLYWOOD: Olson (Ben) reportedly almost beat out Olson (Drew) for the starting job after doing the Mormon mission thing and then transferring from BYU, but wound up only throwing four passes in relief duty. This inexperience makes him an unknown commodity, but reasons for hope include his size (6-5, 227) and obvious pro-style physical ability on top of his prep hype, which made Olson (Ben) the highest-rated quarterback among non-Vince Young recruits in 2002. And 'inexperience' does not necessarily equal 'immaturity' - Olson is 23, which makes him the second-oldest active Bruin (he's a month behind senior fullback Danny Nelson) and a candidate for Weinke-level creepiness in two years. In the meantime, Karl Dorrell will settle for Weinke-level results.
So far so good. Nothing absurd about the analysis re. the kind of talent Dorrell will have this year to replicate the productivity of the offense (against shitty teams) from last year. But I think SMQ misses the mark a little bit when he discusses our defense:
The number 166, as in the national rank of the run defense, was bad enough, but the details were horrifying: three PAC Ten opponents ran for 300 yards, and USC had way over 400. The reasons for this, for one like SMQ who didn't get a good look at UCLA last fall, are hard to fathom, given that the Bruins are appropriately proportioned on the line, above-average in the speed/athleticism category and had a couple very highly regarded linebackers patrolling around (Havner and Justin London, both now gone). So we're talking about some scheme and maybe - this is tough to put a finger on, and much easier for us fly-over folks to levy against a team wearing powder blue in Los Angeles, but a persistent and valid charge nevertheless - heart/toughness issues. If you can still win ten with all that dysfunction, what can you do by improving to just near-competence?
Well one thing that is going to be different this year is we are going to have a new Defensive Coordinator - DeWayne Walker, who the program supporters hyping to be a huge difference maker. Apparently the former DB coach of the Washington Redskins (who is kind of a mercenary coach) is bringing in his NFL intensity into Westwood providing a "a marked difference in the approach and attitude of the defense". And considering Bruins can't really do any worse than the atrocious D they put on display last year, we would think even a reasonable improvement lead to a strong season this year.

Now speaking of a strong season, SMQ agrees that our expectations of winning 9 games this year is a reasonable one, but he is not so sure about our expectations of a must win over USC. Well we cannot blame him if he doesn't fully understand how important it is for UCLA fans for our football team to beat SC this season. SMQ makes this point:
The nine-win barometer makes sense - hell, that's one fewer than last year, when no one could accuse Dorrell of working with "lack of talent at QB," and with an extra regular season game to get there - but the comparison with USC, right now, does not, and if Dorrell's job is said to depend solely on reversing the accumulated momentum of the past five years between these schools by November, nobody worth a damn will be lining up in the winter to fill britches that are probably too big for them, too. Remember, Southern Cal most recently beat UCLA 66-19, and it wasn't that close; with a young team built to win a good bit now and a ton down the road, wouldn't just being reasonably competitive with the Trojans again be enough of a leap for one year? Not for some folks...
Actually it's not just some folks. By last count majority of the Bruins Nation would consider a win over USC a must win next year (if you disagree please say so in the comment section) for it to be considered a successful season. And I would think this community's opinion on this issue matters a little bit considering it is the most highly trafficked and most recognizable UCLA blog online, which is overwhelmingly represented by UCLA alums. If UCLA doesn't beat SC this season considering how those guys have to replace the heart of their offensive unit, it is not going to happen any time soon. And this is the year Dorrell has to win this game if he wants to make up the huge (talent) gap that has developed under him between UCLA and USC. If Dorrell doesn't deliver this season in terms of a complete season which includes a victory over USC, it will not happen any time soon. As Arty wrote - this is a watershed year for Karl Dorrell.

Now or never.