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Spaulding Roundup: UDub Worries

For the first time since Washington State game, Bruins are heading into a game as favorites but don’t be fooled. The Huskies might be winless and are at the rock bottom point in their program’s history, but they are perfectly capable of pulling of a season making win this Saturday. Nathan Ware from DawgBlawg ( provides what I think are pretty good reasons why the Huskies can beat UCLA this weekend:

1. UCLA QB Kevin Craft has struggled mightily. Craft has thrown 7 interceptions in the past two games and his confidence is shot.

2. UCLA's best weapons are WR Taylor Embree, WR Terrence Austin, and TE Ryan Mora. However, UW is getting their best cornerback back from injury (Meshpin Forrester) and Craft's struggles have compromised the effectiveness of UCLA's excellent skill position players.

3. UCLA's offensive line has been the Achilles' heel of the team. The Bruins haven't been able to run the ball and they've allowed 27 sacks this season. UW's porous front seven will have a fighting chance. UCLA is last in the Pac-10 in rushing offense. That's right, they are worse than UW at running the ball.

4. UCLA's run defense – once thought to be a strength of the team – has allowed over 1000 yards in the past 4 games. Stopping the run is an effort-related task and this is a key sign that the Bruins are beginning the process of mailing in their season.

5. UCLA is as bad as UW at turning the ball over.

Nathan also goes on to provide psychological factors working in the Huskies favor:

Last weekend's ASU game was a turning point. The players were either going to continue to quit and let the season fade away or turn a corner against some beatable teams and scratch and claw their way to a win. What we saw on Saturday against the Sun Devils was that UW decided to keep pressing.

Granted, UW lost to ASU by 20 points but they did have a lead in the 3rd quarter and played the Devils tough. UCLA doesn't have a Rudy Carpenter-type-of-quarterback that can take over a game.

We saw more excitement on the sideline in the ASU game then we saw in all of the other games this season combined. Washington is sick and tired of being sick and tired.

UCLA is headed in the opposite direction. With 6 losses, their bowl hopes are all but lost. The team looks demoralized and appears to be where UW was 6 weeks ago. UW is simply catching UCLA at the right time.

The Bruins beat WSU and Stanford in the middle of the season but have been blown out in their last two games against Cal and OSU. UW played OSU better than UCLA.

UW realized their season was over after they lost to Stanford in game 4. The Huskies reeled off several demoralizing losses. UCLA is at the point in their season where UW was when they played Notre Dame a few weeks back. They, too, realize that their season is lost.

Rock bottom is still a few weeks away for the Bruins. Washington fans are experts in the experiment of rock bottom.

Well, I have always maintained emotion is a huge part of college football. I firmly believe it’s the emotion factor that separates college sports from the pro leagues. It would be a huge mistake for our players to underestimate the kind of emotion the Huskies will experience this Saturday taking on Neuheisel, given the history around these two programs (if you still cannot get enough of UCLA coache(s) returning to Seattle, check out two stories from the LAT here and here).

The only disagreement I have with Nathan is that the last two losses we have suffered were not as one sided as the scores indicates. And of course despite the losses, we still have a mathematical shot at a bowl game. However, he does have a point that our team looked deflated (from all the self inflicted implosion during four quarters).

To be fair Nathan also has a separate well thought out post on why the Huskies won’t beat UCLA, but the factors he outlined should be enough to get everyone worried about this weekend’s game. HT to John over at UW Dawg Pound for the link to DawgBlog.

Well for the Bruins to win this weekend, the formula should be simple. Craft and co will have to minimize mistakes on offense. From the official site:

  • UCLA is 25-2 when it wins the turnover battle over the past five-plus seasons, including 5-0 (@Stanford, BYU, Oregon State, California, Oregon) in 2007 and 2-0 (WSU, Stanford) in 2008.
  • It is 13-32 when it ties or loses the turnover battle over the last five-plus seasons, including 1-6 (beat Tennessee, lost to @BYU, Arizona, Fresno State, @Oregon, @Cal and Oregon State) in 2008.

And the Bruins will have to keep building on the improving defense from last few weeks:

  • UCLA's defense has allowed opponent offenses to convert just 18 of the last 64 (28.1%) third down conversion attempts in the last five games.
  • Oregon's 42 yards passing is the fewest allowed by the Bruin defense since Sept. 4, 2004, when the Bruins held Oklahoma State to 23 yards in the air.
  • In a three-game span (Oregon, Stanford, California) UCLA allowed just 246 passing yards (21 completions in 54 attempts), including two games under 100 yards.
  • Over the last five-plus seasons, the Bruins are 21-3 when they hold the opponent under 20 points, and had a 16-game winning streak snapped when they lost the Las Vegas Bowl, 17-16.

Now if the defense can hang in there and close out with a strong fourth quarter, while the offense can minimize mistakes, we will have a shot. Lot of “ifs” in this rebuilding season, but hey I will cling on to that hope.

CRN also provided this added reminder on how the Huskies can be tough at home:

The Bruins (3-6, 2-4 Pac-10) can't be caught sleeping in Seattle. Washington (0-9) hasn't won this season, but Rick Neuheisel doesn't want the Bruins thinking anything will be handed to them. He'll use BYU's rout against UCLA - since Washington nearly beat the Cougars - as motivation. However, Washington still had quarterback Jake Locker under center then.

"We'll talk about the game," Neuheisel said. "I don't know I'd call it dangerous. These teams are both fighting for the future. I think we have to have the right mindset. We can't certainly go in there thinking they're going to lay down because that won't be the case. This is going to be a very physical, tough-nosed game. I have great respect for that program. They're going to play with a great deal of pride. They've been right there a number of games.

They should've been in overtime with BYU, a team we got beat by 59-0. If that doesn't have our team understand what the mindset is in this game ..."

Yeah, I know Locker was in that game. He won’t be around this week. But given the state of our offense, we should be worried no matter who is quarterbacking the other team.