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Pregame Guesses: Nevada Wolf Pack Edition

Analyzing the state of the #BruinRevolution.


Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues Live (via masterchief601)

(This week's video is a live version of Folsom Prison Blues by the late, great Johnny Cash. Originally, I was going to go with something from 7 Seconds, the Reno-hardcore band who, I believe, are still around. 7 Seconds were part of the early-80s American hardcore scene that began with Bad Brains, Teen Idles and Minor Threat in D.C. and Black Flag (among others) in Los Angeles and included such groups as San Diego's Battalion of Saints, San Francisco's Flipper and Dead Kennedy's and Boston's Gang Green. [Feel free to quibble -- I'm not trying to write the definitive history here.] But I didn't really find a 7 Seconds' video that I liked. So, I went with The Man In Black. It's a great song, it mentions Reno (where apparently men get shot just because other men want to watch them die -- just like Ted Nugent's house, right?), it's about guns (also like Ted Nugent's house) and Nevada runs The Pistol (just like .. oh, I give up) -- and so on.)

I took that picture above of the #BruinRevolution billboard. This particular one is on Lincoln Boulevard in Marina Del Rey. I pulled over to take the picture on my way to work a few days ago. All things considered, I don't have a problem with the billboard or the Revolution campaign. I'm not saying it's original exactly, but it's better than declaring the Monopoly is over.

For the record -- it wasn't.

It still isn't.

But what exactly is being said here?

A revolution implies change. Touting change, bragging about change, suggests that the change is for the best, for the greater good. It also means that someone is recognizing that there was something wrong, something that needed fixing.

While ending the monopoly pitted Rick Neuheisel's regime against Pete Carroll's, celebrating the current revolution pits Jim Mora against Neuheisel himself, and also against Karl Dorrell and Bob Toledo and even Terry Donahue. In a sense, it positively contrasts what Mora is doing against the old guard in UCLA athletics, including administrators like Dan Guerrero and the monied boosters who resist change, supported the prior coaches and the current athletic director in their bid to continue to do things the "UCLA way" -- even when the UCLA-way became covered with dust, cobwebs and the stench of 0-50 defeats.

So, it's interesting that the administration has embraced the notion of revolution because it's an admission in and of itself that change was in order. That's not to say that the UCLA way -- whatever that is exactly -- has always been unsuccessful. I've noted in this column before that my student days included three trips to the Rose Bowl and a visit to Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl. Donahue's teams won something like seven straight New Year's Day bowls at a time when the phrase "New Year's Day bowl" actually meant something. There is a stat out there that I'm too lazy to look up that includes UCLA among the nation's best programs when it comes to year-by-year AP rankings. Again, I don't know the numbers exactly, the point is if you contort yourself and squint a lot you can "prove" that UCLA is one of the best college football programs of all time.

But, that's a really deceiving way of looking at things, right? Check our record in some of Donahue's five Rose Bowl seasons. We weren't ranked in the Top Five or even the Top Ten in several of those seasons. No, we managed to win a few conference titles during an era when there really were only a few decent programs in the Pac 8/10. Basically, USC was the national power, UCLA was the determined also ran who managed to squeak by to the top of the standing every once in a while and schools like Arizona State and Washington and a few others had a good/great season every once in a while, too. Let's be clear, I'm not disparaging those teams or the league, but it was a time when teams like Oregon and Oregon State were also rans at best, Cal wasn't that good and Stanford had only a few good seasons as well. The Cardinal win in the most recent Rose Bowl was their first in forever.

Since the early 80s, though, the rest of the league grew restless with the status quo. Oregon is a great example. They went from the pretty good Rich Brooks to the very good Mike Belotti to the excellent Chip Kelly. Along the way, they became dedicated to the idea of being great in college football. So did a lot of programs in our league and across the country.To say UCLA was slow to respond is a considerable understatement. To me, its as if the powers that be felt that our status as the conference's second best football program (and, to repeat, it was a pretty darn good program) and best basketball program was a birthright -- "We're UCLA, dammit" -- and those same powers that be were satisfied with that. As other programs began spending money on facilities and coaches and recruiting, UCLA's response was to do nothing, except to allude to some vague notion that "we're UCLA, we don't have to stoop to your level."

Funny thing is, it worked for a while. As recently as 15 years ago, we won 20 straight games and came within a win at Miami of playing for a national title against a Tennessee team we would have carved up like a Christmas ham. We got by on being "UCLA" for a long, long time.

It's become part of the lexicon to suggest that the academic side of the school hold the athletic side back. I really don't believe that. I don't think the academic side of things cares one way or the other if we're good at football though a fair amount of professors are actually football fans who come to the games and cheer for the team. Academics is not the enemy of athletics. It is true that we cling to a slightly higher set of academic standards than other teams (who adhere to the NCAA eligibility standards), but I don't think that's because they want to see the team(s) fail, it's more because they don't want poor students in their classes. That's a different thing.

But the athletic department does nothing do dispel that myth. Let everyone think it's in part academics that holds the teams back. As long as that's what people think, we have a built in excuse not to win. We do things the right way, don't you see.

Let's just say it: Everyone wants the football team to win as many games as possible. There are just some that don't want to do everything necessary to see to it that the desire becomes reality.

Here we need to recall Coach John Wooden's definition of success. Winning isn't part of the great man's equation. Coach Wooden said success is the peace of mind that comes from doing one's best. For the players, I feel that's always -- ALWAYS -- been true. I never thought that the players weren't trying, even in a three win season. And the coaches? I think they did their best as well. Karl Dorrell was not a very good head coach at UCLA, not in terms of recruiting or game planning or play calling or anything else really. But I honestly felt he did the best he could. He wasn't Steve Lavin, mailing it in and cashing paychecks. He just wasn't that good at his job. It happens.

But, can the administration say that. Using Coach Wooden's definition of success, does the athletic director sleep soundly at night? I don't know. I really don't. Could he possibly think he's doing everything in his power to help the team do its best? Not win, but simply compete to the best of their ability? I don't know.

What I do know is that he's signed off on the notion of a revolution. I mean, I presume the marketing end of the department doesn't just put up billboards without checking with the rest of the department. (Though I believe they put up the monopoly billboards without checking with Neuheisel.)

I don't think that's the case here. What I believe is that the administration is embracing the notion of revolution consciously without realizing that its an admission that they were doing things wrong up until now. (There is also the very distinct possibility that they simply don't know what the word revolution means and just thought #BRUINREVOLUTION looks cool on a billboard. Heaven help us if they would use a word whose meaning they don't understand. That would reveal a literacy problem on top of everything else.)

Tomorrow we play Nevada in year two of Jim Mora's revolution. His first season, though flawed (see: 2012 Cal game; see also: 2012 Baylor game), it gave us all hope. In year two, we need to see improvement. In the W-L record, sure, that would be great. But, in Coach's terms, in the level of competitive greatness. We need to rise to the challenge of the season and play well each and every week and let the scores take care of themselves.

As for the powers that be, they've acknowledged that there is a revolution underway. They need to decide if they're going to get on board all the way -- or at the very least, get the hell out of the way.

And with that, here are your Pregame Guesses: Nevada Wolfpack Edition

  1. What number will be higher, Brett Hundley's total passing yards for the first half or the Bruins total rushing for the entire game?
  2. How many true freshman will see action for UCLA and name at least five of them. (If you don't think five will play, name the four or less you think will appear in the game.)
  3. Will the announced attendance be over or under 58,000?