The 2011 offseason concludes tonight and no matter what happens, tomorrow's game against Houston drops the smoking 4-8 wreckage of the 2010 season on to a remote scrap heap in the far corner of college football's historical junkyard. The 2010 season - in a photo finish with 1989's 3-7-1 post-Aikman debacle for worst showing by a formerly proud UCLA football team in the post Rick-Neuheisel-was-once-a-player era - is now a thing of the past.
Which brings us to the present.
For some, there is reason to be optimistic. The optimists line of reasoning is a simple one: the schedule is more favorable than it was last year, not only do we not travel to Seattle and Eugene for Thursday night ESPN games, we don't play the Huskies or the Ducks - who could be the front-runners for the national title if they beat LSU in Cowboys Stadium tomorrow night-at all; other than Oregon the conference is supposedly down overall from last year; and in Year Four of the Neuheisel era most of the roster are Rick's guys, the product of several highly-rated recruiting classes.
That's the theory, anyway, though I should mention how new offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Mike Johnson is a step up from ol' Whatshisname when it comes to running the Pistol and new DC Joe Tresey will supposedly blitz more in the first quarter tomorrow than Chuck Bullough did all last year.
These are good reasons to be optimistic and despite some questions that remain unresolved in my mind, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's new beginning. The answers to those questions will get resolved in time - or they won't and that lack of answers will tell us a few things, too. Some more thoughts and the return of our pre-game guesses after the jump.
A few weeks ago, I opined that Rick Neuheisel had to succeed. I laid out a variety of reasons and arguments, then wrote "Rick Neuheisel must ultimately succeed because his failure would represent a bottoming out of the program. If he goes, we are really back to Square One. We'd become an expansion team. We'd sink from irrelevant to obscure. We just can't start all over again."
With training camp concluded and the season dawning, I still feel that way. But it isn't my decision to make. And while I loathe cliché, I must admit that this season feels like a turning point in the program - one way or the other. Yes, there are many questions coming out of camp and we'll find out if there are any answers to be had. For now, I'm left with only one question to ponder:
Is this the beginning of the end or just the end of the beginning?
Let's hope for the latter.
With that, we're bringing back our Pregame Guesses, with our annual hat tip to Halos Heaven where Pregame Guesses for Los Angeles Angels games began.
As always, please put your answers in the subject line of your comment. It makes it easier to tabulate the results.
1. True or False, UCLA has more touchdowns than field goals.
2. Name a Bruin who will catch a touchdown pass.
3. Who will score the first UCLA touchdown of the season?