UCLA was #9 in the Coaches' Poll and #8 in the AP Poll when the week 6 polls were released on September 28. We were 4-0, with some ugly wins, but we were undefeated. All was going the right way. And then Utah and Oregon happened. And with that, UCLA fell out of the top 25. It was a week-by-week grind to get back into the top 25. But with a five game winning streak, we were back in the top 10- #10 in the Coaches' Poll and #9 in the AP Poll when the week 14 polls were released last Sunday. But what a difference a week and one ugly game make. The pollsters punished us, and with good reason, after the debacle on Friday.
Here is the current Coaches' Poll:
TOP 25 TEAMS, WEEK 15
1ST PLACE VOTES
As you can see, the Bruins took the biggest tumble of any team in the poll. And that is because we had the ugliest loss of any team in the poll. We were facing an unranked opponent at home, an opponent which had not become bowl eligible until their 11th game, and an opponent without their only seemingly viable deep threat. And the pollsters noticed the result. As you can also see, Nebraska is #23 with the same record as ours. And that doesn't cut it at Nebraska.
We seem to always be turning the corner. But sometimes you can turn a corner, and walk right into a dead end alley. The last time we finished in the top 10 at the end of the season was the first year of the BCS era, when we would have been in the National Championship game except for a bad call (and except for letting a 10 point lead slip away in the 4th quarter). Since then we have not finished in the top 10 a single time- not in the rest of Bob Toledo's time, not in Karl Dorrell's time, not in Rick Neuheisel's time, not in Jim Mora's time.
And we will not finish in the top 10 this season. There is no doubt that Oregon will be in a Prestige Bowl game. They will probably be in the Rose Bowl as a National Semifinalist. And Arizona will probably also be in a Prestige Bowl game, as the College Football Playoff Committee voters will reward Arizona for a 10 win season and a split of this season's games with Oregon.
That means that the Alamo Bowl, which normally gets first crack at any Pac-12 team which does not win the conference, will actually be making its pick after the first two teams are gone. So let's say they pick UCLA, because they want Brett Hundley's last collegiate game (as any bowl should) and because this would be a first appearance for UCLA (and bowls like first appearances).
The Alamo Bowl pairs the #2 choice from the Pac-12 (this year actually #3) with the #2 choice from the Big 12. But this year, both TCU and Baylor are on track for Prestige Bowl games. So the Alamo Bowl will be taking the #3 choice from the Big 12. Kansas State could be the Alamo Bowl's choice. They are ranked #9.
Let's say that the Alamo Bowl picks UCLA (not a given). Let's say that the Alamo Bowl picks Kansas State (not a given). Let's say that UCLA beats Kansas State (not a given). UCLA would have to leapfrog a lot of teams, including Bowl winners, to get back in the top 10 (not a given).
That is a lot of "not a given"'s to overcome. So we are looking at another year in the national wilderness. I just hope that the Bruins can come out in the final game of Brett Hundley's career, and show what they are capable of, and hopefully set the stage for another "turn the corner" moment, hopefully one which does not lead into another blind alley.
For the record, here is the AP poll, which shows a similar tumble.
And with that, we wait for the Bowl selections next Sunday. Go Bruins !!