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Pregame Guesses: Arizona State Sun Devils Edition

One last comment on the Texas game and an interesting article on student attendance at college football games.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

(This week’s video is "Ain’t Gonna Stop" by the band Natural Child. This song comes from their album For the Love of the Game. I chose this video because I like to introduce some music that some members of the community haven’t heard yet. I think you’ll dig this track if you like down and dirty rock and roll. Natural Child is on the Burger Records label. I listen to KXLU a lot (that’s the Loyola Marymout college station) and they play a lot of young bands from the Burger label, as well as music associated with bands from the Burger label. Over the summer, I decided to drive to Fullerton to check out their retail store and because I had to buy something after driving 40 miles, I bought this record (yes, on vinyl you heathens) and liked it a lot. For the record, I also had lunch at Burger Parlor in Fullerton (no relation to the record label at all, just a coincidence) and had a beer and burger. It was a fine burger, the beer was cold, the onion rings almost revelatory.)

Monday, September 22, 2014, 1:18 pm …

It’s a bit strange to be writing the Pregame Guesses post on a Monday. More than a week has past since our win against Texas. There isn’t much to rehash at this point.

I did want to say this:

There are all different types of good college football coaching. Sometimes it’s preparation, which begins in the spring, carries over to fall and continues week after week during the season. Sometimes, it’s Xs and Os or game planning. Sometimes it’s recruiting or roster management. Often, it’s all of these things.

As bloggers, fans observers – we reserve the right to be critical of any or all of these things, any time we choose. So, we all watched the first three games of the season, all wins, but found ways to pick them apart. We won on the scoreboard, but we haven’t earned any real style points this year. I guess some will say, "a win’s a win." And, they’re right. We’re undefeated. But all of our toughest games remain on the schedule, including the one we’re playing tomorrow night against Arizona State, and despite our record, the rest of the schedule still gives me pause.

That said, I’d like to give credit where credit is due.

Yeah, sometimes good coaching encompasses the obvious things, the parts of the game we can all see from the stands or on the television. But that’s not all there is to it.

Because sometimes good coaching is telling the sideline reporter on your way to the locker room at halftime that it doesn’t matter if you’re starting quarterback is good to go in the second half, because you have faith in your backup and you’re positive the kid is going to lead your team to victory.

That’s my most enduring semi-memory from the Texas game

I can’t remember who the sideline reporter was, nor to I remember exactly how she worded her question. What I do remember is Jim Mora looking her in the eye and telling her that he wasn’t worrying about whether or not Brett Hundley was coming back in the game and that he had complete confidence in Jerry Neuheisel and that Neuheisel was going to lead the Bruins to victory over the Longhorns.

No problem.

I’ve tried to imagine what went on in the locker room at halftime a week ago Saturday. Brett Hundley had gone down in the first quarter and Neuheisel rushed into the game and did what he could. He came into the game cold, his first really meaningful snaps since he was a senior at Loyola High School and here he was playing in front of a hostile crowd, far from home in a sold out NFL stadium. He didn’t really have a chance to think about what was happening in that first half, he just ran out there and played. At halftime, UCLA trailed 10-3.

Back in the locker room, Jerry finally had a moment to catch his breath. Hundley, we’re told, was telling coaches he could go back in. Jerry, finally had a moment to think and one can only wonder what went through his mind. He may be his father’s son, but you can’t tell me he wasn’t just a little bit nervous behind the bravado.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next. What I do know is that, either by word or deed, Jim Mora let Jerry know and let the team know that he wasn’t worrying about Brett Hundley’s elbow and that Jerry was going to lead the team to the win.

If I had to guess, Mora didn’t exactly come out and say it. If I had to guess, I’d say that Mora didn’t mention Hundley’s injury at all. I believe that Mora just acted as if nothing was amiss, that his Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback wasn’t hurt, that being down to Texas at halftime was no big deal and that, of course Jerry is going to lead us to victory.

The Jim Mora saga is still being written at UCLA. I’m not sure how the story is going to end. But I have no problem saying that I hope Mora makes it. Great coach? Not sure yet. Good man? Yeah, I think so, yes.

I’m no different than the rest of you. I see things on the field I like and things I don’t like. I’m not sure how this all plays out.

If nothing else, I really like the way this team carries itself. The team is tough. The kids are well spoken. They’re tough, but they eschew bravado.

There is an all-businesslike quality to the way they play football. The players are kids, but they possess a certain maturity. They let things go, whether it’s a penalty, a turnover, a bad break, an injury – even a defeat.

I’m not all in yet. There are still flaws. But there are intangibles that this team possesses, qualities that have been instilled since Mora became head coach that I don’t recall seeing in all too many prior UCLA football teams.

The Future of College Football

I wanted to use a bit of this space to comment on an article that I read on the Insider Higher Ed website. (H/T: Slate) The story is called "Empty Seats Now, Fewer Donors Later? It was written by Jake New and published on September 11th. Writes New:

Game day. For many college alumni, the phrase alone is enough to conjure autumnal memories of watching football while surrounded by cheering student sections, marching bands, and brisk fall air.

But an increasing number of students, researchers say, now see the experience a little differently. For them, attending a football game more likely means sitting outdoors for hours in chilly weather, with little or no access to cell phone reception and alcohol. Once the tailgate party has ended, why not just cheer on the home team from a bar down the street? There are probably some cheap game-day specials, and there may even be free wifi.

Student attendance at major college football games is declining across the country. By how much varies greatly at each institution, but a recent Wall Street Journal analysis of turnstile data at 50 public colleges with top football programs found that average student attendance is down more than 7 percent since 2009.

New goes on to note that college administrators are worried about student apathy towards football, not necessarily because revenue from those tickets are particularly meaningful now, but because today’s uninterested student is tomorrow’s uninterested alumnus. The issue, as outlined in the article is manifest at both a school like Cal Berkeley, where season ticket sales are down among students this year, but also at football hotbeds like Georgia, where the student section was nearly 40% empty last season or Florida, where student attendance is down 22% since 2009.

New’s story touches on the old controversy as to whether or not there is a link between athletic success and alumni giving. More recent studies, it’s noted, do demonstrate a link between football success and giving to the athletic department, though not necessarily to a school’s general fund.

I know UCLA alumni who are quick to criticize the students for their sometimes/often lack of attendance at the Rose Bowl. We/they criticize the athletic department as well, blaming marketing and an inability to solve the transportation problem between Westwood and Pasadena. And I’m not for a second suggesting that this criticism has been altogether unwarranted.

But I did find it interesting to see that this is a more common problem across the country than I had reason to believe. I thought it was just a UCLA problem, but maybe there is more to it. New writes:

The culprits for the downward trend in student attendance are not difficult to identify, said Mark Nagel, a professor of sports and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina.

Tickets are getting more expensive, nonconference games are less evenly matched, and -- thanks to lucrative and far-reaching broadcast contracts -- it's never been easier to watch games from the comfort of just about anywhere else. Students can often watch their college's team play not just on television, but also on their computers, smart phones, and tablets.

"Students just have so many other choices now," Nagel said. "TVs are getting inexpensive. The quality is getting better and better. Students are thinking, 'Do I really want to go? Is it too hot? Too cold? Would I rather go watch the game somewhere more comfortable? Is it going to be a boring game?' "

I’m interested to see what you all think, if you have a moment read the article and let me know in the comments below.

And, with that, here are your Pregame Guesses: Arizona State edition:

  1. What number will be higher: UCLA takeaways or UCLA offensive line holding penalties?
  2. What player -- Bruin or Sun Devil -- will have the most rushing yards in the game?
  3. What number will be higher: Jordan Payton catches or Myles Jack tackles?