It's the day after Thanksgiving and 8 days since the Bruins collapsed in Seattle, making every game a must-win if CRN & Co. hope to salvage the season and get to a bowl game.
Also, we get to double-dip today with Ben Howland's squad taking on VCU in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. If you haven't already, check out DCBruins' game preview here and chime in on the UCLA-VCU game thread here. Basketball tips off at 11:30 a.m. PST on ESPN2. Football gets underway on FSN at 12:30 a.m. PST, so keep the remote handy.
On the football front, fortunately, UCLA won't have to suffer through an entire game of Law Firm II. As 03rdn9 noted in yesterday's Spaulding Roundup, the Bruins get a boost at QB with Richard Brehaut being medically cleared to start against the Sun Devils today (after being knocked out of the Washington game by a typically cheap shot from the Huskies, who are slowly turning into U$C North).
Despite this being a must-win game, UCLA's players aren't exactly sounding confident or urgent (per Jon Gold):
"We have to come out and play with urgency," senior guard Darius Savage said. "It's hard when you manufacture it; you have to want to do it. You have to want to do it. You have to want to play football. The dog days of the season, the 10th, 11th, 12th week - it's hard. But we're in a position where if we don't win (today), we're going home for a long Christmas break."
On paper, that sounds like the right thing to say, but it sounds like Darius is saying they feel like the Bruins are artificially manufacturing the will to win, that they don't really want to do it, but they're telling themselves they do. If that's true, expect a humiliating whooping at the hands of the Sun Devils.
More notes and chat after the jump.
The key to today's game won't be on the offensive side of the ball. Today's game will be won or lost when Chucky's unit is on the field. The Bruins will have Butkus Award finalist Akeem Ayers lining up with stud freshmen talents Cassius Marsh,
As Nestor pointed out earlier this week:
First factor in play for UCLA here is that Threet has proven to be very error prone this season as he has thrown a conference worst 17 interceptions. He is not a very mobile QB unlike Jake Locker, Matt Scott, Andrew Luck and Darron Thomas, who have killed the Bruin defense with their legs this season. Moreover, the ASU offensive line has been pretty porous when it comes to pass protection (just like our "Filthy Five") this season as they have given up 24 sacks (ours has given up 25 to date). So once again it will be up to Chuck Bullough to dial up pressure with his base defensive schemes that have proven to be mostly ineffective except for little spurts this season.
In other words, this game is a prime opportunity for the defense to get creative, blitz from different sets, and force turnovers to put out offensive unit in great field position. That being said, it remains to be seen if Dewayne "Vanilla" Walker disciple Chucky B. will show any kind of moxie and bring it this game. If the Bruins drop into soft coverage all game and not bring pressure on ASU's porous offensive line, expect Threet to carve up Bullough's zone "defense" and effectively end UCLA's season.
Although Bullough should be shown the door at the end of this season, let's hope he can put it together for the next two games (although given that ASU plays the kind of spread offense that gives the Walker-style defense fits, I seriously doubt we'll slow down the Sun Devils), and help put UCLA in a position to go bowling this year.
Let's hope both Bruin squads can bring up much-needed wins today.