This is the third installment of Pick-Six, a group of notes about UCLA football and its upcoming matchup. This week is a bye week, so it’s mostly UCLA football with a few other stats.
1) Junior quarterback Josh Rosen is the best quarterback in the nation.
While I may not personally agree with this statement, it has surely become a popular opinion throughout the past few weeks. And there are plenty of reasons why analysts have already slotted him in the No. 1 spot for next year’s NFL draft.
Rosen leads the nation in yards and touchdowns, and barring some terrible injury (I crossed my fingers while typing this), then he will easily break the record for most passing yards in a season.
At this pace, he will pass the record on the road at Utah on Nov. 3. But he only needs about 229 yards per game for the rest of the season to accomplish achievement.
Let the countdown begin.
2) If coach Jim Mora and company hope to make it to a bowl game this season, they will need to notch some high-quality wins following their bye week.
That may be difficult, based on the history of the program.
Since 2000, UCLA has won 65.2 percent of its games prior to its bye weeks. After the bye weeks, that percentage drops to 40.8 percent.
Of course, different factors determine which team is successful and which isn’t. Last year’s club finished 1-3 after the bye week, but Rosen wasn’t behind center then.
He is now. But it will take outstanding performances on offense and defense from here on out to carry the Bruins into a bowl game come winter.
3) UCLA’s defense has been atrocious, allowing about 507 yards per game. That’s good for eight-worst in the nation.
But, before I go into a rant about how defensive coordinator Tom Bradley needs to step it up, I must applaud the defensive crew for yielding their least amount of yards this season against Colorado.
Still, the defense should be much better in surrendering yards willy nilly. The Bruins didn’t allow more than 400 yards in eight of their games last season. So, with or without Rosen on offense (in other words, an effective offensive attack), the defense has proven what it’s capable of.
Now, after a week off, Bradley’s legion of defenders could continue to improve, especially against a lackluster Arizona team.
4) It’s been a while since UCLA went undefeated in its conference season – 19 years in fact. Thanks to a drubbing from Stanford, the Bruins won’t finish this year with a shiny zero in the loss column either.
But considering the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10 and Pac-8) is a competitive major conference, even the most talented teams in the past still didn’t complete an undefeated conference stretch.
Star Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s teams didn’t finish with a flawless conference record, and neither did Andrew Luck’s squads.
Surprisingly, the last team to accomplish this feat was the 2010 Oregon Ducks, led by running back LaMichael James.
It’s mostly a surprise because quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended for the entire season prior to its start. Furthermore, as a result of an injury to backup slinger Nate Costa, Darren Thomas was thrusted into the position, where he ultimately flourished.
Thomas had 30 touchdowns, despite throwing for just 2,881 yards on the year.
The Ducks’ defense is what led them to the national championship game that year. The sturdy defensive corps allowed just 18.7 points per game.
Oregon lost in the championship game to some quarterback named Cam Newton from Auburn.
5) With Caleb Wilson out, Austin Roberts has been slotted as the main tight end in Mora’s offense. And while most people don’t know much about the redshirt junior, he is a very versatile option on the field.
Roberts was a receiver in high school out of Carmel, Indiana that also returned kicks and punts. He was a highly touted recruit in high school, especially after a productive senior year, when he scored seven touchdowns – two from returns.
His college numbers aren’t mind-blowing. He had a modest 15 catches last season for 261 yards and one touchdown. Thus far, he’s already surpassed his career high in touchdowns after catching one against Memphis and one last weekend against Colorado.
Yes, Wilson was on track to finish the year as an All-American. He was ranked in the top 20 in receiving yards before the injury, and he will be missed.
But even though Rosen lost maybe his most reliable target, Roberts should be able to fill in fine as he continues to develop game by game.
6) Everyone misses Paul Perkins.
Since the departure of the premier running back, UCLA’s running game has been stagnant. While the Bruins don’t rank last in the nation in rushing yards per game like they did last season, they still rank in the bottom 25.
But there has been some improvement since last season, even though between 2015 and 2016, players had a pretty significant drop in average yards per carry.
Can the crew of running backs continue to improve? I don’t see why not. One good note is that the Bruins have had more than 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games. Granted, several of those yards against Stanford were in garbage time, but stats are stats.
UCLA Running Backs' Average Yards Per Carry
7) Extra Point!
Every season hot takes are made in regards to which conference is the most competitive and has the best teams. Ultimately, at least since the turn of the decade, it seems like it’s been between the SEC and the Big 10.
Is that the case this season?
Well, based on the nonconference records from each of the more popular football conferences, yes and no.
If you take a quick gander at each conference’s record and winning percentage, it would seem that the SEC and Pac-12 are the two best conferences in the nation. However, as I do not have enough time to determine the strength of schedule of each team in each conference, there are some key factors being left out.
Nonconference Records for Each Conference
Based on the eye test?
Well, any conference with Alabama and Clemson in it is probably great. But as a whole, the ACC probably isn’t as competitive from top to bottom as Big 10 and the SEC.
Between the two conferences, the Big 10 has more parity, between Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State. After Alabama, Georgia and Auburn are both intimidating squads, but overall, I would rank the B10 at numero uno.
Where does the Pac-12 rank?