I have been waiting for this for a while. Over at Washington Husky Sports John B has been tirelessly rolling out previews of every Husky game last few days. He finally got to UCLA today and it was about what I expected: a fair and reasonable take from a classy Husky alum.
John leads of his UCLA preview with a classy tone that I am sure will disappoint lot of MSM types who will be looking for any hint of bitterness between Husky and Bruin fans all season to rev up this game (emphasis mine throughout):
Rick Neuheisel returns to Husky Stadium as the head coach of his alma mater UCLA. Rick thinks he will get BOO'ed upon his return, but I am not so sure he will. In fact he is probably still a lot more popular than current Husky head man Ty Willingham. After three years of "Paint Dry Ty" UW fans are nostalgic for the days when Husky football used to be fun under Neuheisel.
I like Rick, and I think he is a potentially great coach who learned a lot of tough lessons the hard way while at Colorado, and UW. I am pretty sure Neuheisel is going to put it all together during his tenure at UCLA, but it probably won't be in the first year.
John goes on to provide a fairly solid capsule on our team (based on info available at this time) and concludes with these thoughts on the game:
Traditionally I always think we can beat UCLA every year then something nasty happens in the fourth quarter.
Make no mistake, this is a real big game for Rick Neuheisel, there is nothing he would rather do than beat the university that gave him the percieved shaft and sent him to college coaching purgatory. Say what you want about Rick, but in the end the old UW administration treated him like a sacrificial lamb when the NCAA came hunting.
Going into this one I have to give UW a decided edge with Locker at QB, and since this game is at home I am going with UW.
We all know that California teams hate to play in Seattle late in the year, plus UCLA historically packs it in after the 6th game of the year. To me that is Rick's biggest challenge, keeping his team together an entire season because the last two coaches couldn't get it done.
At this point I can't really find anything to nitpick with what John wrote.
I believe UDub will be the favorite to win this game given the home field advantage and the emotional element surrounding Neuheisel's return. However, that doesn't mean I am ready to concede a loss (notwithstanding the early projections going into this season). I think by that time of year there is a good chance that our secondary will be more developed with the seasoning of our cubs. Who knows ... we might see a patchwork OL being able to put together a serviceable running game. If we can put together a great defensive performance and splice in some opportunistic offense and killer special teams play, UCLA could steal a win in this game. The edge will go the Huskies going into the game. But given what we have seen from Neuheisel as an under dog over the years ... we just might have a shot.