Monday, July 16, 2012

Previewing the Pac 12: UCLA Bruins

When I was younger, UCLA was a powerhouse.  Their offense was a finely tuned machine created by Terry Donahue, and later Bob Toledo.  Their running backs were fast and explosive, their receivers freakishly tall with great hands, and their quarterbacks efficient.  After the forgettably mediocre Karl Dorrell years, Rick Neuheisel was brought in to resurrect the program to its former heights and challenge the dominant cross town rival USC Trojans.

Neuheisel recruited solid talent, unbelievably instituted the pistol because of the ineptitude of his quarterback situation, and fielded teams that were disappointingly average.  His teams lacked discipline and toughness, the offense was only successful against the very poorest coached teams in the conference, and he was fired after four seasons.

In comes Jim Mora Jr, touting a pro style offense and maniacally raving about toughness and physical practices.  Let me get this straight, I think Jim Mora Jr is a joke.  He took over a playoff team in the Atlanta Falcons, took them to the NFC Championship, threw a tantrum on the sidelines when Andy Reid completely outcoached him, and had his team quit on him the last two seasons he was there.  He then took over the Seahawks, made more excuses than Paul Wulff, whined, bitched, complained about a myriad of things, threw his players under the bus and then acted like a child when he was fired, calling Pete Carroll a cheater and throwing veiled insults the Seahawks way all the while claiming to be "over the whole thing".  Do I think his antics will work in college? No. But, I digress, now to the more objective part of the preview.

UCLA is switching to a 3-4, honestly, I don't know why Neuheisel never did this, the talent completely fits the scheme.  They are also ditching the pistol(Thank god), and adopting a more modern spread offense look.  The Bruins have a boatload of quarterbacks on the roster, including Kevin Prince, who is a member of the Drew Neitzel All-Stars as a guy who seems like he's been in college forever. Jonathan Franklin is an outstanding running back.  At the receiver position they lost Nelson Rosario but have some legitimate playmaking talent in place in Shaq Evans. The offensive line is lacking, as is the norm at UCLA.

Defense is how Jim Mora climbed the NFL ladder, or riding his fathers coattails, depends who you ask.  But I will be curious to see how Mora transforms a typically underachieving unit.  The defensive line has solid depth and decent size and the linebackers are probably the strength of the defense.  The corners are big, which I love, but aren't exceptionally skilled at the game of football. 

The defense will be the strength of this team and I wouldn't be surprised to see the offense struggle mightily given the significant change in scheme.  I don't think Mora is a great coach and I think he will continue to run physical practices which will cause his team to wear down as the season progressed.  The Pac 12 is a brutal conference, the second best in the country.  Even if Mora improves this team as far as on the field play, Idon't think the record will show.
   Here is a look at their schedule and my predictions:

Aug. 30 -- @Rice: Win

Sept. 8 -- Nebraska: Loss

15 -- Houston: Loss

22 -- Oregon State: Win

29 -- @Colorado: Loss

Oct. 6 -- @Cal: Loss

13 -- Utah: Loss

27 -- @Arizona State: Loss

Nov. 3 -- Arizona: Win

10 -- @Washington State: Loss

17 -- USC: Loss

24 -- Stanford: Loss

Record: 3-9

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