Well before this season began, back in March, with spring camp just about to get underway, we took a long, hard look at UCLA football and what we should reasonably expect for the Bruins this year. For this season, there should be no looking forward to next year - this year was finally the year that UCLA made the jump back into being one of the top college football teams. It's a point we've driven home here at BN time and time again, especially when people came out to gnash their teeth in Mora's defense and talk about how "next year" the schedule would be easier, we'd have more depth, etc., all while ignoring one simple fact: this season represents a golden opportunity - the best UCLA has had since 1998 - to be a nationally elite team.
UCLA has one of the best, if not the best, QB it has ever had suit up for the Blue and Gold - Brett Hundley is a first round NFL Draft talent. We have a very good and talented team in all three phases of the game - and for the first time in a very long time, we've had pretty good depth to deal with the inevitable injuries that come with UCLA football. With Stanford, Oregon, and Southern Cal having to play at the Rose Bowl, the schedule was set up very nice for UCLA - which, to Mora's credit, has gotten the job done on the road (although by the skin of their teeth in Boulder and Berkeley).
So why does this all matter now? With Arizona State losing to Oregon State this past weekend, UCLA is once again in control of its own destiny in the Pac-12. In short, that means one simple thing: win the next three games and the Bruins walk away from the season as the 11-2 Pac-12 champions.
Brett Hundley is an elite QB - one of the best, if not the best, UCLA has ever had. Paul Perkins is absolutely tearing it up on the ground - the kid is just in the zone right now and it's amazing to see. The offensive line has really been clicking of late. The defense is starting to fire up and really do well. If the Bruins come out and play the type of football we know they are capable of - the way they played against Arizona State and Washington - they can play with anyone else they face, including the mighty Oregon Ducks. We are just three wins away. This is the kind of opportunity that Jim Mora may not ever get again - he has to capitalize on it now, not next year - but now.
The seeds of doubt about Jim Mora and this coaching staff have made their way into the minds of UCLA fans - no one is prepared to give Mora his walking papers - that would be stupid at this juncture - but the creeping doubt that he might just be good, not great - that he might be Jeff Tedford, not Jim Harbaugh - is beginning to form. For Jim Mora, the next three games present him a personal golden opportunity - if the Bruins can win the next three games, he can banish those lingering doubts about his ability to be a big-time college football coach for good. It gives Jim Mora and this coaching staff an opportunity to wipe away the frustrations and shortcomings of the past decade - it gives him the opportunity to cement a legacy of being the man who got the UCLA Bruins their first conference title since 1998.
Let that sink in - the last time our Bruins won a conference crown, a lot of kids in high school were not even born yet, and those currently playing for the Bruins were in diapers the last time UCLA was relevant on the national stage.
It all begins this week against the Southern Cal Trojans and Seven Win Steve Sarkisian. It's only a matter of time before the Trojans get wise and figure out that Sarkisian is another Jeff Tedford coach - good for mediocrity only. It means that the Bruins need to come out this week with the kind of focus and determination that got them huge wins in Tempe and Seattle. It means that Mora and this coaching staff need to open up the play book, pull out all the stops, and do everything it takes to put a beating on the Trojans. This is the biggest game of the year for the Bruins - with Oregon State's help, we now have everything to play for - and the Trojans will be doing everything they can to spoil it for us.
It means that Dan Guerrero and his incompetent buffoons at the Morgan Center need to set a tone - they need to get Westwood and Southern California hyped for what could be a major run for the Bruins and Jim Mora, and for this particular week, it means that UCLA's athletic department needs to send a very clear message to Southern Cal - there will be no Trojan sword-planting bulls**t at the Rose Bowl.
There is no next year, there is no abating expectations for the future - this is our time, right here, and right now. It's up to Jim Mora and this coaching staff to lead our UCLA Bruins to seize this rare, golden opportunity - WIN, WIN, WIN. There's no excuses - the Trojans are still hampered by sanctions and led by a fraud as a head coach, who fell into a job just before getting the ax for mediocre season after mediocre season in Seattle; Stanford is a shell of the program that Jim Harbaugh built before leaving for the NFL; and we get a rare second chance to take on the Ducks, who have some injury problems (most notably, Pharaoh Brown) and the disadvantage of not being able to host at Autzen.
The time is now - UCLA has a golden opportunity - all we need to do is win the next three games and this season will be everything we had hoped for, and maybe, just maybe, with a bit of luck from the College Football Playoff committee, maybe even more.
It's time for Jim Mora and this coaching staff to put up or shut up - with Oregon State's help, they now have the opportunity they were hoping for - win the next three games and everything is there for the taking - there would be no better, more fitting way, for Brett Hundley - one of the all time greats at UCLA - to end his collegiate career than by winning out.
It's all on you now Jim - no more talk - it's time to seize the opportunity.