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UCLA Pregame Guesses: November Bye Week Edition

Despite a few missteps, this season still has a chance to hit some significant marks.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

(This weeks video is "Roads" performed by Nicke Borg. Borg played rhythm guitar and sang songs for Swedish garage rock band Backyard Babies. I actually saw Backyard Babies at Alex's Bar in Long Beach a few years back and have been a fan for years. I tried to find a live version of the band doing this song, but there wasn't a good one on Youtube, so this will have to do. I still hold out out that the Babies will reform. At the moment, guitarist Dregan is doing some solo stuff after a few years in Michael Monroe's band. Borg has a solo project as well, called Homeland. These bands rarely make it to the States, though I've seen Monroe twice in the past few years, caught the Babies the last time they came to L.A. and I've also seen The Hellacopters, Dregen's other band. Read below to see why I picked "Roads" as this week's song -- besides the fact that I like it.)

This is a bye week so I’m going to keep things pretty short. I need to save some stuff for rivalry week.

I have two points that I want to focus on this week.

The first is something that I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks and now that it’s come to fruition I’ll mention it. I haven't read every story and I’m not sure if it’s been discussed elsewhere. Here goes.

We went unbeaten on the road this season.

That's five wins on the opponent’s home field and a neutral site win over Texas in Dallas. I just went through our season results year-by-year and the last time we won all of our games away from the Rose Bowl was 1993, the year we lost the Rose Bowl with Wayne Cook at QB.

Of course, we still technically have one more game away from the Rose Bowl because we'll be in a bowl game somewhere.

This, to me, is a pretty significant achievement. First of all, it’s something we haven’t done in 21 years. We didn’t do it either year we won ten games in 1997-98 (a twenty game win streak spanned those two seasons with Cade McNown at quarterback, but we lost a road game before the streak started and, of course, we lost to Miami in Miami to end the run).

But more than the rarity of doing it, I’m thinking about how abysmal we were on the road during the Dorrell/Neuheisel seasons. Feel free to look up our road records during that period if you want, I’m not going to bother. What matters to me is that I remember thinking and feeling more than once that "hey, we aren’t that bad at home, if we ever figure out how to win on the road we might not be so bad." We never figured it out and nine years of my sports fan life were squandered.

The second point I wanted to make is this team has a chance to be the first UCLA football team to win 11 games.

I can’t lie. If we win out, I feel there’s a real case to be made that this season continued an upward trend for the program under Jim Mora. Yes, the losses to Oregon and especially Utah would always sting and there would be a sense of having squandered an opportunity to make the playoffs and possible win a national title. On the other hand, 11-2 and unbeaten on the road would represent the best UCLA football season of my lifetime and that’s something I simply would not be able to dismiss.

To me, this team has its flaws. Our wide receiver corps has no true star. It’s a collection of good players, but I don’t see a first-round NFL talent-type in the bunch. Paul Perkins has had a really good season, but I could say the same thing about the running back corps as well. The defense would be way better with a true pass rusher in the Anthony Barr mode. And the offensive line – despite playing better in recent weeks – has never really recovered from losing both its starting tackles (Simon Goines to injury, Torian White to whatever he did) before the season.

There’s no point in spending too much time or too many words trying to figure out what it all means until the season plays out. Yeah, we can finish 11-2, but we can also finish 8-5 and that would be a disaster.

But, at the very least, this team still has a chance to continue an upward trend of improvement that began in Mora’s first season. An eleven-win year would be the third straight season of increased wins. I having tried to figure out when the last time we did that, but I’m guessing it’s been a while.

Next week is Rivalry Week. Throw the records out the window; beating Southern Cal next Saturday is the priority. I’m officially declaring it time to start getting fired up. We can figure out what it all means on the other side.

And, with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, November Bye Week Edition:

  1. What game are you most interested in watching tomorrow, with UCLA on a bye?
  2. If you had a vote, who would you pick as your Heisman Trophy winner?
  3. What four teams would you put in the playoffs, if the season were over right now?