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Bring Out the Tin Foil Hats

As you know, last week, Nestor set out our expectations for the Bruins' 2008-09 football season.  We said that, at this snap shot in time, the Bruins could finish anywhere from 6-6 to 3-9 depending on how things shook out.

Some of you pushed back with conspiracy theories, suggesting that we'd toned down expectations to give Neuheisel a "honeymoon."  And we responded, in much detail, setting forth the many reasons we felt that this season would be a rough one for the Bruins, and had a nice fact-based back and forth.

And that was it.  Well, at least until SMQ took a shot at Neuheisel, and we had the audacity to respond.  Then, after this "single-issue blog" (do they mean UCLA's three consecutive Final Fours?) disagreed with SMQ, we had our response.

But, instead of supporting his labeling of Neuheisel as a "charlatan," SMQ lashes out at Bruins Nation, suggesting that our football predictions are "ridiculous" and part of a fraudulent and politically calculated attempt to stay on "message."  Specifically, SMQ begins:

One of the really entertaining things about UCLA partisans Bruins Nation is how staunchly on-message it is at all times. It’s apparent some of its founders have political backgrounds. When the message was "Fire Karl Dorrell," no opportunity was missed, no sentence was written that might weaken the campaign. Not even after a 26-point win. Not even if it was November and L.A. could still potentially make the Rose Bowl.  Nothing could stand in BN’s path.

Now that the message is "Head Coach Richard Neuheisel Is the Best CEO in America," the tone of the rhetoric has changed completely –– it’s all positive, all the time –– but the commitment to the message is as staunch as ever. Take the site’s official expectations for Neuheisel’s first season, for example.

And then, after comparing our expectations for this year to those of years' past, concludes:

What this is, really, is an admission that the "expectations" for Dorrell were ridiculous –– intentionally constructed to be beyond not only any independent projections but beyond the realistic grasp of anyone in his position.

It's all very polite, but he's calling us liars.  He's attacking our motives and credibility.  He's saying we don't write what we believe.  Instead, we have some dark hidden agenda.  Before, it was to get rid of KD.  Now, it's to support Neuheisel out of some "all-out investment in coach-worship."  In short, it is, at best, a lame conspiracy theory and, at worst, an ugly personal attack.

What comes in between the above quoted introduction and conclusion is an amusing mish-mash of snark, obfuscation and flawed analysis. 

On the one hand, he puffs up the Bruins, lauding them as "a team that returns its leading passer, leading rusher and five of its seven leading receivers," presumably to make our dour predictions seem fool hearty.  Of course, that conveniently ignores that said "leading passer" [Olson] is injured and had a mere 1040 yards passing, with just 7 touchdowns (and 6 INT's), in limited duty; that the "leading rusher" [Bell] had just 795 yards and also is returning from season-ending injury; or that UCLA's best two receivers are gone and the best of the remaining five "leading receivers" [Johnson] had just 322 yards on 25 receptions.

On the other hand, SMQ seems to begrudingly agree with our assessment:

It’s not that these projections are destined to be wrong –– without going into the returning roster in extreme detail....

Indeed, this agreement is no doubt compelled by even a cursory review of UCLA's lineup and upcoming season, including that:

  • We have no healthy experienced quarterback, and our lone returning starter has been both uneven in performance and fragile in health;
  • We have a brutal schedule, including a strong OOC slate of BYU, Tennessee, and Fresno State, which have pre-season rankings of 12, 22 and 29, respectively.  We also have most of our toughest conference games (Oregon, Cal, ASU) on the road;
  • We have an unheralded, inexperienced, and frightfully thin offensive line;
  • We have limited overall experience, on both sides of the ball, with only 9 returning starters (compared to 20 last year);
  • We have basically only one proven returner in both the secondary and at linebacker;
  • We have two green, undersized and inexperience defensive ends; and
  • We have seen recruiting suffer through much of Dorrell's tenure, with most of the help this year being in the form of freshman.

And, don't just take our word for it.  Even if one were to question our motives, surely they would believe virtually the same predictions coming from such folks as "prognostocenti par excellence" Phil Steele and others:

6.  UCLA - The Bruins have just 9 returning starters and maybe less than that if OB Ben Olson does not return from an injury suffered in the spring.  They do have an inexperienced O-line but were an injury ravaged team last year so they have more experience than you would think.  UCLA gets five Pac-10 HG's [home games] but still needs and upset or two to land a bowl bid.

Moreover, throughout his commentary, SMQ also misses perhaps the most critical point.  Specifically, he wrongly compares our collective expectations for a first year coach (Neuheisel) to one who'd been on the job 4 and 5 years (Dorrell).  To be sure, we had higher expectations for a coach who had several years to establish his system and recruit in his players.  Come back next year or in 3 and see if things change (they will).  It's that simple.  And it doesn't take a conspiracy theory or tin foil hat to get there.

It's also funny that this conspiracy theory is so completely at odds with the usual jabs at Bruins Nation.  You see, for years, we've been branded as the unreasonable, crazy, demanding, lunatics, that are uncontrollably filled of hate and vitriol.  Folks like SMQ openly worried about our well being.  But, now, you're all to believe that we've, overnight, been transformed into some sort of cabal of athletic department suck ups; shills for the UCLA man. 

Shouldn't we be running amok with pitch forks, trying to run Neuheisel out of town in favor of Richt, Meyer, Rodriguez, Saban or fill-in-the-blank coach we'd never have any hope of landing?  Shouldn't we be sifting through CRN's garbage looking for dirt to use against him?  Shouldn't we be making up lie after lie to advance our secret, demented and terrible hidden agenda?  Heck, where's the fatwa?

Of course, the more reasonable interpretation is that we actually think Neuheisel is the right guy for UCLA.  And we are giving you our best, reasonable expectations for the team's performance at this particular moment in time.

And don't buy into any of the sham details in SMQ's team-by-team analysis.  It's so replete with inconsistencies as to be laughable.  We picked a win against unheralded BYU teams at the Rose Bowl in prior years, but not a nationally 12th ranked BYU team or a Utah team on the road?  Shocking.  We unreasonably expected wins against Arizona, Washington and Oregon State in 2007, no doubt as part of our secret plan to inflate expectations, when SMQ predicted UCLA would win each of those games himself?  We are slow playing it with our predictions, because we won't chalk up wins against ASU or Cal teams which are the Pac-10's consensus No. 2 and No. 3 teams this year?  Is he really making such a fuss because we called games at Washington and against Arizona toss-ups?

Also, which is it?  Our predictions (which he seems to agree with now) are wrong?  Or, our predictions from years past (which he did agree with in part) are wrong?

You lace it all together with good prose, and some sly jabs, and it's a conspiracy!  Well, I guess if you look for anything hard enough, you might just find it.