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UCLA Football: Bruins Nation's Bye Week Post-Weekend Roundtable Discussion

With UCLA football taking this past weekend off while gearing up for a Thursday night show-down with Arizona State in Tempe, the writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the off-week, what to expect versus Arizona State, and some various odds and ends from around college football as we get ready to enter the fourth week of the college football season.

Joe Robbins

1.  Our Bruins will be heading to the desert to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a battle that will go a long way in deciding who wins the Pac-12 South - what do the Bruins needs to do on Thursday night to come away with the win?

Bellerophon:  Some of that depends on whether Hundley plays or not - if he's in, we need to open the playbook, be aggressive, and get on the Sun Devils early to take the crowd out of the game and put Arizona State on their heels psychologically - being down by 14+ points early without Taylor Kelly might be too much for them to come back from.  If Neuheisel is starting, we need to play smart, and the defense will really need to step up - Arizona State will be throwing their back-up QB out there, so instead of making him look like a Heisman hopeful, they need to make him look like what he is - a back-up QB.

IE Angel: The defense needs to deliver the game we have all been waiting for this season. The three touchdowns against UVA were astounding, but there were red flags there. Arizona State is still dangerous as hell without Taylor Kelly. Are they capable of winning the South without Kelly? I don't think so, but DJ Foster and Jaelen Strong are both electric athletes capable of scoring at any time regardless of who is throwing or handing them the ball. The offense needs to continue improving (I'm personally confident that Hundley will be out there on Thursday) and not allow a young and relatively untested Sun Devil defense to control the tempo of the game. Limit penalties, avoid turnovers, give the quarterbacks time to make decisions and ball out on a national stage.

Achilles: Run the football effectively. I really want to see the line open some holes and see the backs put up some serious yards. I thought the rotation solidified vs. Texas and sant to see that continue.

AHMB:  The defense needs to shut down the run.  Arizona St. is a stout challenge.  They're getting over 300 ypg on the ground.  Yes, we caught a break with Kelly being out, but the Sun Devils will still challenge our defense like no team thus far with their excellent ground game.  If we can force Bercovici to air it out, I like our chances.

UCLAluv:  They need to bring the funk and tear the roof off the house.  Okay, there's no roof, but you get the idea.  I think we need to get Perkins moving the ball, run some creative plays, quick short plays against a good d to set up longer plays.  The defense really needs to step up and bring it to the new qb.  Aggression. Blitz.  And more of those wonderful hits we saw against I said, gotta have that funk.

JoeBruin15: Contain D.J. Foster, rattle the second-string QB Mike Bercovici and move the ball effectively on the ground offensively. Those will be the three keys to the game.

2.  Which quarterback is more important for his team - UCLA's Brett Hundley or Arizona State's Taylor Kelly?  Why?

Bellerophon:   Brett Hundley.  Losing Taylor Kelly is a huge blow to Arizona State but Bercovici is a capable back-up quarterback - he's a redshirt junior who, at the time, narrowly lost the starter's job to Taylor Kelly back in 2012.  The drop-off for Arizona State, at least on paper, isn't as bad as it is for UCLA - Hundley is a first-round NFL Draft talent - Jerry Neuheisel is a hard-working kid who came to UCLA as a grey-shirt with no real accolades coming out of high school (rated 2 stars by Scout).  As much as everyone in Westwood loves Jerry - he's not a long term solution - Bercovici is the Sun Devils' most likely starting QB next season when Kelly is gone and graduated.

IE Angel: It's Hundley, but I think it is pretty close. Brett is the more talented player, but Kelly has destroyed the Bruins the last two seasons. In 2013, he went 22-27 for 225 with a TD passing and 99 yards rushing with a TD. In 2012, he threw for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 55 more yards. I am pretty confident that Bercovici is not going to put up those type of numbers in his first collegiate start. Arizona State still has Strong and Foster on offense and a much better offensive line than UCLA. The Bruins might have more depth on offense, but no one capable of doing the things that Strong and Foster can without a future NFL QB. The Bruins have a great deal more experience on the other side of the ball and a better special teams unit, even if that experience on defense hasn't necessarily played at the level they had hoped to thus far.

Achilles: I'm not sure. We beat a weaker than usual Texas team without Hundley. Would ASU have beaten them without Kelly? I don't know much about ASU's reserve QB so it's tough to compare the drop from Kelly to him vs the drop from Hundley to Neuheisel. Hundley is probably the better QB in terms of pro potential, but Kelly is very important to the ASU team.

AHMB:  I don't know how to answer that because Hundley and Kelly are both so instrumental to each offense.  At this point, I think Bercovici is a step above Neuheisel, so in that respect I'd have to say Hundley.

UCLAluv:  I think it's a tie.  For us, Hundley allows us to run more things.  But would he be able to bring his running to this game so soon after the injury, or would they make him play conservatively.  On the other hand, I agree with IE.  Kelly has had his way with us, so I guess I'm leaning towards Kelly.

JoeBruin15: I feel like the "correct" answer is Hundley, but I also feel like the team played a more cohesive game after he got hurt in Dallas because they had to. It makes me feel like they've been waiting for Brett to bail them out in our other games. We definitely missed Hundley less in the second half of the Texas game because the entire team stepped up. Because of that, maybe Kelly.

3.  With Utah going to the Big House and giving Michigan a solid beating, are the Utes for real, or are they likely to fade once Pac-12 conference play starts?

Bellerophon:  I think the Utes are for real.  While Michigan is pretty poor this year, the Utes are a huge trap game for the Bruins.  Sandwiched between this Thursday's game against Arizona State and the game against the Oregon Ducks, it would be very easy for the players and coaching staff to overlook a very well-coached, well-disciplined Utah team.  They're not in the national elite conversation, but they have an outside puncher's chance of winning the Pac-12 South.  Don't go to sleep on those guys.

IE Angel: I also think the Utes are for real. Not like conference champion for real, but they can beat anyone in the Pac-12. They're probably something like the 5th best team in the Pac-12, but that might still be a top 20 team overall. Travis Wilson is a solid QB, Dres Anderson is one of the better WRs in the conference, they have arguably the best kicker in the Pac-12. Nate Orchard and the rest of the Ute defense are stout enough to slow any offense. That'll be a big test for the Bruins.

Achilles: I watched only a little bit of this game in San Francisco Saloon on Pico. (They have very good wings, btw, if you like your hot wings heavy on the vinegar ... nice and tart). They looked good, but I have no idea how good Michigan is as a team. I'll put it this way: Utah is always pretty good and I never chalk that game up to a sure victory. They are a well coached team. There is a really interesting side issue regarding this game, too:

If Michigan's season goes south and the 49ers season goes south -- well, guess which former Stanford head coach is now with the Niners and who just happens to be a Michigan graduate? Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh seems to be losing control of the 49ers at about the same time Brady Hoke is losing the Wolverines ... if he ever had them. Harbaugh to Michigan would mean Harbaugh vs Urban Meyer ... would be really interesting in the Big 10 if Harbaugh could remake UM in Stanford's image, a tough, pro set team built around a huge oline. Michigan seems tailor made for that style of football.

AHMB:  As long as Travis Wilson stays healthy, Utah is for real.  Wittingham's teams are always sound defensively, and WIlson provides enough spark to win.  They'll have to do better than the 286 yards of offense that they had last week to compete in the Pac-12, but they are capable of beating any team in this conference.

UCLAluv:  I agree with what AHMB said.  They are the real deal.  I don't think Michigan was a good test for them though, so we'll have to wait and see.

JoeBruin15: Come a week from Saturday, the Utes will be at the Rose Bowl ready to play. Our guys should consider themselves lucky that they don't have to play in the freezing cold in Utah again this year. And, for the record, I'm predicting that Jim Harbaugh isn't going anywhere because the Niners don't have anyone to replace him with. There may be a Harbaugh coaching at Michigan, but it won't be Jim.

4.  Which result was more shocking - Oregon struggling against Washington State or Arizona putting up 36 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Berkeley Bears on a last-second Hail Mary?

Bellerophon:  While you'd expect a high-powered team like Oregon to punch Washington State in the mouth, we often forget how difficult it is to travel to and play in Pullman.  The Cougars aren't an elite team but it's always a very tricky road game, plus Leach is not slouch as a coach.  Berkeley had such a huge lead going into the fourth quarter, it seemed that the Bears would roll on to an easy win.  Talk about a complete collapse, all to be punctuated by a last-second Hail Mary to win it for Arizona.   Both are bad teams, but I don't think anyone expected Berkeley would be that poor closing out a game.

IE Angel: The comeback because fourth quarters like that just don't happen. At any level of football. Oregon still has the best win in college football by a lot in my opinion. Washington State isn't as bad as they've looked, I think they're probably the 4th best team in the North (I have zero confidence in Oregon State after struggling with Hawaii, San Diego State and Portland State). Winning Pac-12 games on the road is tough. Making up a 4+ score deficit in a quarter is borderline impossible.

Achilles: Didn't really see either game, took the wife out for a nice Italian dinner Saturday night. But anytime a team scores 36 in the fourth quarter it's pretty shocking. Going into Pullman isn't fun for any team and Oregon is no exception. I think the Oregon WSU game (what I saw of it, anyway) served as a reminder that every team can be off its game at any time and that any underdog, especially at home, is capable of competing.

AHMB:  Any time a team scores 36 points in a single quarter, it's shocking.  I didn't watch the game, and I still don't know how Cal collapsed that badly, but wow ... just wow.

UCLAluv:  While that comeback is shocking, I think Berkeley fans have gotten used to bad things happening.  So I don't think in this particular case it is shocking.  When Oregon struggles I think that's news.

JoeBruin15: I agree with luv. When Oregon struggles, it's big news. Bigger than Cal collapsing. Cal was the worst team in the conference last season. Two wins to start the year is a big deal, just not that big a deal.

5.  It's still early in the season, but at this moment in time, which four teams are you putting in the inaugural College Football Playoff?

Bellerophon: Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, and Texas A&M.  Yes, I'm putting two SEC teams in there - Texas A&M looks like they're for real and I suspect Oklahoma will find a way to choke at some point in the season.  Hopefully the Ducks pick up a loss (or two) against our Bruins, but for now, you have to have them pencilled in as the favorites to win out and take the Pac-12 conference title (and a spot in the playoff).

IE Angel: Oregon would be my #1 seed. Best win in college football. Oklahoma is my #2 seed, they've pretty much dominated everyone they've played and their only questionable game is Tulsa (and that was a road game). Florida State would unfortunately be my #3 seed because they've beaten two good football teams in OK State and Clemson (with their backup QB). The SEC Champion will be in the Playoff if they have fewer than 2 losses, so right now I think Auburn has looked the best of the SEC teams. Texas A&M has played Lamar, Rice and SMU after their first win. Alabama has looked decent but have played no one. Georgia and South Carolina both lost games. I am not ready to buy in on the two undefeated Mississippi schools. So the Auburn Tigers are my #4 seed.

Achilles: Oregon, Oklahoma, Auburn, Florida State (I like Auburn more than Alabama because eff Lane Kiffin)

AHMB:  Alabama, Florida St., Oregon, Oklahoma.  I didn't reach much, but I think the polls are correct at this point.

UCLAluv: Oregon, Oklahoma, Auburn, Texas A&M.  Florida St. will probably be there, but I don't want them there so I left them off the list.

JoeBruin15: Oklahoma, Florida State, Texas A&M and the winner of the Pac-12 championship game. I'm not ready to concede that to Oregon yet.

6. The extra point - fire away:

Bellerophon:  It's not college football related, but has John Harbaugh lost his magical touch?  The Niners are a complete clusterf**k right now - tons of penalties, a complete inability to score in the second half, no ability to make adjustments in game, and a quarterback who might have hit his ceiling last year.

IE Angel: If Bellerophon can go on an NFL tangent, then I'm doing the same for the team I root for. I'm teetering on the edge of bailing on my Tampa Bay Buccaneers allegiance. Ending up down 56-0 in the 4th quarter of an NFL game is just unspeakable. Betting on Josh McCown based on a sample size of 5 games with the best skill position talent in the NFL versus like 14 years of previous mediocre backup QB level play was the most obvious miscalculation of the offseason from the second it happened. Imploding an offensive line and then not replacing the divots with anything was equally misguided. Releasing arguably the best corner in the NFL was just frustrating even if it was financially understandable. It has been this way as a Tampa Bay fan for nearly every year since the Super Bowl win. If there isn't a QB drafted by this team (Did you know the Bucs have never signed a drafted QB to a 2nd contract? And that they drafted Steve Young and then gave up on him?) in the 1st round next season, I'm just going to follow Brett Hundley to whatever NFL team he ends up with. My nightmare scenario is the Bucs drafting the dumpster fire of a human being that is Jameis Winston (I'm totally okay with saying this, by the way. I think the evidence on Winston's character speaks for itself.) There'd be no coming back from that.

Achilles: There are too many college football games on every week. We haven't even played a conference game yet and I'm getting burned out. Saturdays without a UCLA game are the worst. We didn't play last week and we aren't playing this week (on Saturday). I look at a little here or there, but mostly I ignored college football last Saturday and probably will again this Saturday. The only game I really watched was FSU-Clemson (only the first half) and some of Oregon and WSU. Even one of the announcers was commenting that in the first weeks of the season there are so many crappy non-conference matchups that he was getting bored. Can't wait until we have games on Saturdays most of the rest of the way (I think Stanford is a Friday game, the day after Thanksgiving) but I'm not sure.

AHMB:  Did you know that the only week that our ranking improved was the week we didn't play?  If we beat a solid ASU team, we might get back to where we started the season.

UCLAluv:  Congratulations to Roosevelt Davis for getting a scholie.  He has worked incredibly hard and it has paid off.  I think only his size has kept him from getting more playing time.  I love watching him speed through the line when he does get a chance.  About the NFL, this week I listened to "the guru" and made the changes they suggested on one of my fantasy teams.  They shredded my team.  Ended up with 35 points!  So let this be a warning to you, don't listen to the experts.  My other two teams ran away with it.

JoeBruin15: Continuing my special teams theme from the past few weeks...Fairbairn is 80% inside 40 yards, but 50% over 40 yards. Remember that on Thursday.

That's it for this week folks.  Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on this past weekend in college football, the upcoming game against Arizona State, as we count down to Thursday night in the desert.