Myles Jack. Need I say more?
When I started last Sunday's poll post with that line, Jack was coming off a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, notching 5 total tackles (and creating havoc for Washington's offense) and one pass broken up, all while smashing the Husky defense to the tune of 59 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs. And what a difference a week makes.
With Myles Jack removed from the defense by Jim Mora in one of the most bone-headed decisions of this season, the Sun Devils' offense had their way with Lou Spanos' defense in the first half, building a lead that would prove insurmountable for Noel Mazzone's inept, vanilla offense that just looked lost (although not as lost as UCLA's linebacker corps without Jack) except for a few flashes of brilliance. In a move that not only severely hurt the defense (losing Jack's dynamic athleticism to pressure the QB, chase down Marion Grice, etc.), Mazzone's offense was the same inept unit we've seen all year, even with Jack smashing his way up the middle to grind out 86 yards total.
And with the loss, the Bruins' dreams of returning to the Pac-12 title game in Palo Alto are done, with the Sun Devils clinching the division crown for the first time. With the loss, UCLA has no chance at a top-tier bowl, and will once again return to the Karl Dorrell Sun Bowl, the DeWayne Walker Las Vegas Bowl, or the Rick Neuheisel I-Didn't-Even-Know-This-Bowl-Existed-Until-Now Bowl. Most concerning is the fact that Jim Mora's team is once again faltering down the stretch, falling to #22 in both the AP poll and the USA Today/Coaches' poll. That happens when you lose three out of the last six (and with two of those wins coming in very close games). If Mora wants to salvage the season, he'll need to win next week against a resurgent Southern Cal team (climbing up to #23 in both the AP poll and the USA Today/Coaches' poll) and close out strong and win whatever third or fourth tier bowl we end up in. There are no excuses.
Here's the polls, courtesy of our friends at the SB Nation mothership, beginning with the AP Top 25 Poll (which does not count toward the BCS standings):
|2||Florida State (4)||11-0||1,444||2|
|Others Receiving Votes: Georgia 15, Texas 10, Cincinnati 10, Mississippi 7, Nebraska 6, Arizona 6, Minnesota 5, Vanderbilt 1, East Carolina 1, North Dakota State 1|
That's right folks: Fresno State is ranked higher than UCLA. Just like the good ol' Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel days! Oh, and bear in mind, with Oregon choking in spectacular fashion to Arizona (a team we beat in Tucson, further illustrating why we should have been more competitive against the Ducks), they're out of the BCS picture, meaning they will end up at the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl, further pushing UCLA down the bowl pecking order.
As for the USA Today/Coaches' Poll, it's also not pretty:
|2||Florida State (6)||11-0||1,488||2|
Dropped out: #23 Minnesota (8-3)
Others Receiving Votes: Notre Dame (8-3) 17, Minnesota (8-3) 12, Texas (7-3) 12, East Carolina (9-2) 11, Georgia (7-4) 8, Nebraska (8-3) 7, Louisiana-Lafayette (8-2) 6, Miami (FL) (8-3) 6, Arizona (7-4) 2, Vanderbilt (7-4) 2
Both the Bruins and Trojans sit on the edge of the top-25, meaning that the loser of next week's Battle for Los Angeles is going to fall out of the final poll of the regular season. For the Bruins, a loss next week will raise a lot of red flags about Jim Mora and the direction of the program, with UCLA suffering two late season collapses in a row and a complete failure to win "the big one" when it counts (those Nebraska wins aren't looking so impressive anymore, with the Huskers falling out of the polls). No excuses: Mora needs to close out the year strong by beating Southern Cal and winning whatever third or fourth tier bowl game we end up in.
Time to win or go home.