Here comes the nuclear winter of college sports. Well, at least for UCLA this year, as we no longer have any teams in contention. So let's look at the football schedule for 2011 and see how things will shape up for our Bruins and CRN who by many accounts seems to be on the hot seat. It remains to be seen what Dan Guerrero's expectations are.
There are a couple of ways of approaching this. I recently came across a new web site called College Football Matrix, which provides "Recruiting Based Team Predictor & Trend Modeling". I have to say, it is rather interesting. You can see the analysis they have done on UCLA here, where they show our 4-year recruiting rank to be #15. Sadly, the flip side of that is the fact that UCLA has been terrible at getting players to the NFL based on that recruiting rank.
Anyway, the point they make is that CRN has done a great job of recruiting. However, recruiting is only part of their prediction model, which also includes something they call "coaching effect". And based on that coaching effect, CRN and his staff have cost the team an average of 4 games per season. You can look through their methodology. The UCLA analysis is not yet complete, however it shows that based purely on recruiting, UCLA should finish 10-2, as only U$C and Texas have done a better job of recruiting over the past 4 years. There is a "home/away" adjustment that brings this down to a 9-3 record. The coaching effect has not yet been taken into account, but if the 4-game cost is applied, this would lead to an expected 5-7 record.
Making predictions for this year's team is very hard considering the new coaching staff and new additions to the league, so take this with a grain of salt (and please assume no injuries!). Now, let's take a rudimentary look at each game and I will share with you my predictions (NOT expectation).
9/3/11 @ Houston
UCLA demolished Houston at the Rose Bowl last year. The Cougars were thoroughly unprepared for UCLA's running game, but surprisingly their offense was abysmal. Part of that had to do with the injury to Case Keenum. Even if he is back as the starter this would be his first game back, with only two returning offensive linemen. Akeem Ayers was incredibly disruptive in that game, but he moved on to greener pastures. With Datone Jones back, however, I expect more pressure on their QB, and our DBs should have a good game as well. Just like the rest of us, Houston won't know what to expect from the offense, but they'll be in the second year of a 3-4 scheme that could cause trouble. I think UCLA will win this game in a close one...don't we always win in Texas? 24-20 W.
9/10/11 vs. San Jose State
SJSU lost to Stanford last year 42-17 and only won one game the whole season. There are rumors that Tate Forcier might join the team after spurning Miami but he would not be eligible until the next year. At the Rose Bowl, the Bruins should win handily (but of course never take an opponent lightly). 37-13 W.
9/17/11 vs. Texas
UCLA shocked the nation last year by manhandling the Longhorns in Austin. Turns out the shock was two-sided, with UCLA being a lot worse than that win reflected and a Texas team that was unthinkably bad. Texas will not be that bad again, but neither will UCLA. Texas comes in with a whole new coaching staff except for the head coach, uncertainties at QB, an offensive line with little depth, and young DBs, but a front seven on defense that is quite good. And lest we forget, they have athletes everywhere with highly touted recruits. Revenge will be on their mind, but sometimes that works against you, especially on a high-pressure team like Texas. UCLA wins a squeaker. 20-17 W.
9/24/11 @ Oregon State
I really have no clue on this game. UCLA almost beat the Beavers in 2009 in Corvallis, and beat them last year at the Rose Bowl. OSU loses many starters on defense and the offensive line is suspect, but nearly the whole offense will be back...except for Jacquizz Rodgers. His brother James is expected to play but his rehab from last season's injury seems to be going slowly. This is definitely a winnable game for UCLA, but never underestimate Mike Riley's coaching. It is UCLA's first Pac-12 game, away, potentially after a big win...not one of CRN's fortes. UCLA loses a close one, 27-21 L.
10/1/11 @ Stanford
Let's not relive last year's misery at the Rose Bowl, shall we? Oops, I think we just did. The fact is, the turnover within the Stanford football program has been colossal. Harbaugh and Fangio are gone and half of last year's starters will not return. Stanford has been stockpiling some incredible talent, but many of these former prep stars lack game experience. Still, there will be continuity on offense since Shaw (previously the OC) was promoted to coach the team and Stanford will continue to steamroll opponents with Andrew Luck & Co. even if their defense isn't as good with Fangio gone. We lose big but at least we score! 42-21 L.
10/8/11 vs. Washington State
The Cougars have to play in the Rose Bowl again. They nearly got us last year, and their young QB will only be better this year. This is potentially a coach in desperado mode and UCLA will only win if they have improved from last year, which I believe will be the case. 31-17 W.
10/20/11 @ Arizona
A team we could/should have beaten the last two years. It's infuriating, really. Arizona returns two senior QBs, both of whom have beaten UCLA. They will have some attrition on the offensive line where they lose all the starters from 2010. On paper this should be a competitive game and a win here would really set up the Bruins for a pretty good season. But none of these things seem to matter when we play this team. UCLA finds a way to lose, and they will again. 24-10 L.
10/27/11 vs. California
UCLA has to win this game. No ifs and buts about it. Cal loses their QB and a great RB. For all the talk about Tedford being a QB guru, the only stud he ever had was Aaron Rodgers and he found him by accident while scouting another player. Their defense will be excellent, the best in the Pac-12, but by this game UCLA should have it together. Playing at home, UCLA will play its best game of the year. 20-10 W.
11/5/11 vs. Arizona State
Four starters on the offensive line return, as do a stable of talented running backs for the Sun Devils and their 6'8" QB Osweiler. 9 starters return on defense (even though they lost two of their best defenders) including LB Vontaze Burfict who is an animal. Playing at home won't be good enough for the Bruins. This is a crucial stretch in the season and the Bruins play well, but come up short and are overpowered. 27-20 L.
11/12/11 @ Utah
The Utes went 10-3 last year, while playing in the Mountain West Conference. We'll see whether the tougher conference schedule will take a toll on them by the time this game rolls around. Still, they are a disciplined team with a good returning QB (even though he missed spring training with a shoulder injury). Norm Chow will only have had one spring to install his offense but this late in the season, they will be further along and will take care of the Bruins at home easily. 28-13 L.
11/19/11 vs. Colorado
UCLA must win this game to become bowl-eligible, which is really the bare minimum for CRN to save his job. UCLA should have the edge in talent, but Colorado's new coach may be able to inject new life into the once mighty program. Their offense has a lot of experience and will likely have a number a seniors. Luckily this game is at the Rose Bowl so there won't be as much heckling or focus on CRN's tenure at Colorado, unless the season has already gone to the toilet. Bruins will take care of business but not before Colorado gives everyone a big scare. 34-27 W.
11/26/11 @ U$C
Sigh. 1-11 against the Trogans in the last 12 games. Will the 13th game be the charm? U$C returns a decent offense, though possibly without Marc "Trogan all the way" Tyler who was their leading rusher. Only two starters remain on their offensive line, but never a shortage of talent there. The defensive line remains solid but there are questions at other spots. Even though the troylets will play uninspired and are coached by college football's version of Paris Hilton, they will show up for this game, which they will treat as their bowl game. Somehow, the Trogans get five conference home games and seven overall. Playing at the Crapiseum, UCLA just can't get its offense going, and while the game remains close into the 4th quarter, the trojies pull away and break our hearts once again. 27-20 L.
Random Bowl Game vs. random team
See Armed Forces Bowl vs. Temple, with the same result except the subsequent 2012 UCLA Bruins will be a very good team.
Final Record: 7-6 (3-6)