‘Meeeericaaaa Fuck Yeahhh!
That’s what I think, the answer to my question.
The UCLA Football Bruins are for real. “For real” at this time, meaning capable of beating USC, and staying in the rankings. The meaning of “for real” could change and that could mean playing for the national championship but I think were still a ways from that.
But beating USC I think is doable.
1) Brett Hundley. Watching him against Nebraska, he looked much different than the Drew Olsons, Ben Olsons, the Cowans, Kevin Prince. As a FRESHMAN. For the first time in my 11 years of watching Bruin football (at first following former Loyola Cub QB/DB Matt Ware), I saw an offense move. I was actually confident that our quarterback would get us there either through his feet or through his arm. Even in his loss against Oregon State, he was the same cool customer. In the loss against Cal, 4 interceptions is horrible and will probably lose any game, but I felt like it wasn’t “really” his fault. We had remained in the game till it all unraveled in the 4th quarter.
The key thing to him and why I believe he will help UCLA prevail over SC is I think he’s been battle-tested under pressure. This means I think he’s capable of keeping up even with his revolving door motley crew of receivers, in the event that the big game becomes a shootout, which is highly likely.
2) Anthony Barr. 6’4, 235 lbs coming at you at 4.5 seconds if you’re 40 yards away. It’s not just me as a Loyola Cubs homer hyping him up anymore. In just one year as a linebacker, he already has 11 sacks. He just earned Pac-12 Defensive player of the week and is a serious candidate to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. It seems like every game is a good game for him.
3) Matt Barkley. No, he doesn’t play for UCLA. In fact he plays Quarterback for USC, but looking at his output, he seems to get a kick out of stat-padding on crappy teams — look no further than last year’s game. But if you put any kind of pressure on him, I think he buckles. He’s been on a downward trajectory in recent weeks throwing 7 interceptions in the last 3 games, 4 of them against the Arizona teams we beat.
I think there’s got to be a lot of hope when you see that they had to rely on a record-setting day of him throwing to Marquise Lee just to keep up with a then-#22 Arizona team, we somehow demolished.
4) Lane Kiffin. Maybe USC hired him for the same reason that the Chicago Bulls initially hired Vinny Del Negro over Tom Thibodeau: they wanted someone young, cheap, inexperienced, and easy to get rid of for when it was time to play for real. USC hasn’t had to play “for real” for a few years because of sanctions. Now that USC has cleared sanctions, and USC is on a downward trajectory, now’s the perfect time for them to hire a real coach.
So essentially, it’s half of us winning based on the performance of who I think are UCLA’s real standouts are as much as it is the unravelling of the main cogs of USC.
If Hundley is his usual calm self, Shaq Evans and Joseph Fauria should also have a good day.
Bruins all-time leading rushing yards leader Jonathan Franklin may or may not show up. He usually does. I think he will get just over 100 yards rushing. Jim Mora needs to find a way for Hundley to pass him the ball early; this should set the pace as it gets our two biggest cogs on offense running. If he does do well early, I hope we don’t over-depend on him like we have done with Steven Manfro.
On defense, I think the pass rush can throw off Barkley, even a little bit. I think in addition to Barr, Cassius Marsh, Jordan Zumwalt, Damien Holmes will provide enough pressure to make a few key defensive plays that will ultimately separate the teams. While I’d love the idea of limiting USC to 10 points or less, I don’t think the UCLA defense at its last observed state, particularly our cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price can really shut an elite corps of offensive talent completely down.
I think the Bruins prevail in a shootout, as they have done a few times this year. Hundley’s been good at handling the pressure. Matt Barkley, not so much.
UCLA 40 USC 35.
It will feel pretty damn good for long-suffering Bruins fans.
In 2005, I remember wondering how UCLA’s defense would fare against the super-speedy Reggie Bush, and ultra-powered USC offense before the 66-19 debacle. We won games, but it felt like we had to play not to lose. I wasn’t really ever confident in that team’s ability to handle tough opponents. Sure, we had a high-powered offense, but it seemed to be based entirely on running MJD and getting the ball to Marcedes Lewis; it was a good offense, but not as good as what seemed to be an invincible USC.
In 2006, I remember feeling cautiously optimistic the next year when UCLA ruined SC’s National Title contention. I ignored most of the 7-6 season and thought with Reggie Bush and Norm Chow gone, and just a quarterback named John David Booty, there was plenty of reason to be optimistic.
This year, I feel pretty good. Preseason #1 USC doesn’t seem like the invincible cheating team they once were. Well, at least just the ‘invincible’ part is gone. Losses aside to Oregon State and Cal, the team feels different than the previous iterations of UCLA football.
This game against USC has the feeling I felt last year when Michigan (my other favorite college football team) finally beat Ohio State last year after years of losing. For a brief moment, Michigan was actually better than Ohio State, and the rivalry game between the two sealed that status under a new upstart 1st-year coach named Brady Hoke with his prize young quarterback Denard Robinson.
Let’s hope that UCLA’s moment extends beyond this year for our new upstart first year coach Jim Mora, Brett Hundley stays a prize young quarterback, and “for real” at some point for this program means National Championship contention.