Alright folks, it's college football Saturday and our Bruins will face the first true test of the Jim Mora, when they take on the Houston Cougars tonight at the Rose Bowl. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. PT, and for those of you unable to make it to the Rose Bowl, it will be televised on the Pac-12 Network (if you have DirecTV, you're screwed).
Yes, Nebraska was a top-25 opponent, with a high-powered offense and a defense with a tough reputation. But the Bruins have pulled these type of big wins before, dropping Tennessee twice during the Neuheisel era, going to Austin and upsetting the Longhorns in a dominating win, hell, you can even put 13-9 in the category of big wins in recent memory. But, UCLA has almost uniformly followed a "signature win" with a signature whipping in embarrassing fashion, or a second-half season collapse. So while the universe is ready to proclaim all is now grand with UCLA football, let's see if this team has really taken the next step.
Houston is the classic trap game. They're an unranked opponent, they no longer have twentieth-year senior Case Keenum at QB, and we face them following the big win against Nebraska and before the Pac-12 conference schedule gets underway. This is the kind of game that UCLA would never be prepared for, would overlook, and would either choke away or struggle to finish.
So, today, we'll see if Jim Mora really has changed the culture of UCLA football. We all hope to see this Bruin squad come out intense, fired-up, and ready to bring the BOOM. Right now, Vegas (depending on where you look) has the Bruins favored by between 16.5 and 17.5 points. So, based on how these Bruins have played and our thoughts on Houston, this should be a solid UCLA win, and not a slip-up trap game for the Jim Mora era Bruins.
With that, let's turn to the bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse to kick off our Saturday game day coverage:
- Starting with the odds, Jon Wilner at the San Jose Mercury News thinks that the 16.5 line for the Bruins is way too low, and in fact, he expects Jet Ski to make a serious challenge at the UCLA single-game rushing record (322 yards by MJD against Washington in 2004) against a hapless Cougar rush defense.
- As if we needed a reminder, Yahoo! Sports posted a list of the biggest underachievers in college football. And guess who finished at the very top of the list? Not Illinois, not Colorado, but UCLA. In fact, it sounds almost BN-esque, noting that the Bruins have been the "epitome of mediocrity" and the "poster child for habitually underperforming." So today, against an opponent we should easily beat, we'll see if that culture of habitual underperformance has finally been put down.
- Turning to one of our favorite UCLA beat writers, Miguel Melendez at the Daily News had a great profile of Datone Jones earlier this week. Datone talks about growing up in Compton and some of the terrible things he's seen in his young life: it really makes you root for this guy, so if you missed it, check it out.
- Melendez continued his fantastic coverage with a good look at the defensive line and the fantastic job that Jones, Marsh, and Epenesa have been doing in anchoring the new-look 3-4 UCLA defense.
- Finally, Melendez posted comments from Rick Neuheisel's Thursday interview on the Petros & Money Show on KLAC-570, in which Rick just lays Chianti Dan out. Rick discusses a wide range of topics, from U$C banning Scott Wolf, to the Pac-12's outlook for the season, and how proud and excited he is to see UCLA get off to a fantastic start. But it's the tail end of his comments that are key. We've already seen former players, like Tony Dye, mock Chianti Dan for the pathetic joke that is Spaulding Field, but now Neuheisel, who has always been a die-hard Bruin put the administration (Gene Block and Chianti Dan) on notice that they need to "make strides" in showing a commitment to football on campus and that the Bruins are "leaving a lot on the table" when it comes to building a top-class football program. In other words, it sounds like lazy, tone-deaf bureaucrat Chianti Dan is happy with adequate facilities instead of striving for greatness (you know, what UCLA is supposed to be all about). Great read and great to see Rick not afraid to openly blast our moronic athletic director.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to get this Saturday morning of college football started. Kick-off is slated for this evening and we will have open threads up throughout the day, so keep your eyes peeled for those. For now, this will be our early morning college football open thread. Get fired up and fire away with your thoughts, comments, etc. in the open thread below.