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Roundup From BN Walk: Football News & Notes

Let’s start our walk with where we left off in our last post: our non conference opponent(s) for this upcoming season. It all begins with Tennessee of course, but Ted Miller from WWL reminds us that the Volunteers are not the only difficult non conference opponent dotting our schedule this season. Miller ranked our ooc schedule as the second most difficult one (Washington having the most difficult ooc with BYU, Oklahoma and ND per Miller) in the Pac-10:

Opponents: Tennessee, at BYU, Fresno State

Rating it: 2nd

What it means: Welcome back to Westwood, Coach Neuheisel! You've got an opener against an SEC power and then two other ranked teams. What's worst: No matter that BYU and Fresno State likely will get preseason rankings; most folks will view a UCLA loss to either as an embarrassment.

Well the folks who will view a loss to either BYU or Fresno State as an “embarrassment” are probably ignorant about the facts. The official site provided some of that re. our opponents:

The 2008 schedule features eight teams that played in bowl games this past season and compiled a record of 7-1. UCLA's three non-conference opponents - Fresno State (9-4), Tennessee (10-4) and BYU (11-2) all won bowl games and finished with a composite record of 30-10 (.750).

Overall, the record of UCLA's 2008 opponents was 94-60 (.610). Seven of those schools (USC 11-2, BYU 11-2, Arizona State 10-3, Tennessee 10-4, Oregon 9-4, Oregon State 9-4 and Fresno State 9-4) won at least nine games. An eighth won seven games and two more won five each. The home opponents posted a 53-36 (.596) record in 2007, while the road opponents were 41-24 (.631) last season.

Six teams on next year's schedule finished in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll - No. 3 USC, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 14 BYU, No. 16 Arizona State, No. 23 Oregon and No. 25 Oregon State. Overall, UCLA will meet four teams which earned at least a share of the regular season conference title (Tennessee - SEC East, BYU - Mountain West, Arizona State and USC were co-champions of the Pac-10). Eight of the 12 opponents played in bowl games following the 2007 campaign (Tennessee defeated Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl; BYU defeated UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl; Fresno State defeated Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl; Oregon bested South Florida in the Sun Bowl; Cal topped Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl; Oregon State beat Maryland in the Emerald Bowl; Arizona State lost to Texas in the Holiday Bowl; USC outscored Illinois in the Rose Bowl).

We discussed this schedule strength in a post last month while comparing the challenge Neuheisel is facing in his first year at UCLA with what his predecessor dealt with in his inaugural season in Westwood. It was a big factor in the way we set out our projections for the upcoming season earlier last month.

For UCLA to win games that surpass those projections, Neuheisel will need an effective Ben Olson. We talked about a new mindset last week following the Pac-10 media during which Neuheisel openly talked about BO needing to connect with his team-mates. One of the challenges in this situation is how BO is at a different stage in his life (as a result of being married and a father) compared to rest of his team-mates. However, Neuheisel talked about how BO and his team-mates can work through those differences similar to how NFL veterans work it with rookies in an effective team setting. From the Daily Bruin:

 “They’re not at the same places in their lives, but on game day, they need each other,” Neuheisel said. “And Ben has to embrace that. He’s going to be throwing to some freshman receivers in fall camp. He’s got to be able to put his arm around them and make them feel good.

“That’s part of the job. And if you don’t get that part of the job, it’s always difficult to get guys to believe that if you call a third-and-1 play, you’re going to execute.”

The same report mentioned how Olson is already working on this:

Some of that building of trust may have started already, according to senior defensive tackle Brigham Harwell. A couple of weeks ago, Harwell said he and Olson had an hour-long conversation during a car ride in which they talked about leadership and the direction of the team heading into the season, a conversation that Harwell said went well.

“This year, so far, he knows what he has to do,” Harwell said. “He’s been taking a different role of organizing, being with the team. Building relationships with the players on offense and defense, and he’s been stepping up as a leader. He knows this year he has to be Ben Olson as he was in high school. He’s a great quarterback, great arm, so he has to put it together.”

As far as the relatively disappointing two years that Olson has spent behind center, Harwell said the team has forgotten about that.

“We all believe in him,” Harwell said. “And no matter what his past or losing games or getting hurt, that’s in the past now.”

That’s good to hear. Again it will be great of Olson can go out on a good note. He will never have a better opportunity to take advantage of two coaches who appreciates the perspective of playing QB better than anyone else:

“From a quarterback perspective, having coached it and played it, that’s where I see his biggest challenge,” Neuheisel said. “Norm’s job is to make sure he plays the position well. I want him to take that other piece and understand what goes into playing other than being successful at the position.”

Let’s hope it works out. If not I am sure hopefully the other young QBs in the team will be hungry to step in.

Lastly, we will end this roundup with another note on unis. According to Dohn UCLA and Southern Cal wearing home jerseys could happen in 2009 if the Pac-10 passes a rule change early next year. I am not going to hold my breath when we have to depend on this conference’s inept officials to get something done. But getting it done next year so that we can bring back this tradition by having UCLA wearing the home uniform at the Mosoleum would be perfect.