Our marathon UCLA 2017 Previewpaloooza is almost done. Congratulations for you are in order for surviving.
To cap off the palooza, I have 17 parting thoughts about the season and UCLA football as it stands on August 29, 2017.
- I’m cautiously optimistic about this season. Even with an entirely rebuilt offense, a head coach that hasn’t quite inspired total confidence from his fan base, and losing a lot of top-line defensive talent, there’s enough here for a solid rebound season. Or maybe I’m just delusional.
- It looks like Jim Mora made a raft of solid hires on offense. Mora’s hiring history has been pretty spotty in his 5 years at UCLA, but the hires of Jedd Fisch, Hank Fraley, Jimmie Dougherty and Deshaun Foster all make sense to me. No head scratchers like last season like with Kennedy Polamalu (disaster) and Rip Scherer (secretly an ace recruiter just like everyone expected). If only they were made a season earlier.
- UCLA fans, the perpetually angsty bunch we are, won’t be totally satisfied with a solid rebound season, and that’s fine. A school in Los Angeles with sparkling new facilities, pristine weather and elite high school talent oozing from all orifices in its backyard should always be much better than what UCLA typically is.
- We’ll get an idea of just how angsty we should be right off the rip. Texas A&M is an unknown much like UCLA, with a still unsettled quarterback battle and having to replace Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. A loss could get the season off the rails in a hurry with a rough stretch of Memphis, Stanford and Colorado looming before October.
- A win on Sunday, however, particularly one in which Jedd Fisch’s offense impresses and runs the ball effectively, could get things going in a much better direction and help out a defense that will take time to gel and replace what it lost in 2016.
- Why is UCLA going to Memphis on a Saturday in September at 9 am PST? Dinguses.
- I would rather watch UCLA be annihilated by Stanford again than go through last season’s heart-wrencher.
- On paper, Colorado appears to be the most even matchup with UCLA. Both teams have one really good unit (Buffs offense v. UCLA defense) and one that is being completely rebuilt under new leadership (Buffs defense v. UCLA offense). Couple that with Colorado playing UCLA hard every year, even when the Buffs were bad, and it should be a righteous barn burner.
- Man, what happened to Arizona? How did it fall off so quickly for Rich Rod? And I still can’t believe Arizona’s been to a New Year’s Six bowl more recently than UCLA has.
- UCLA is really, really fortunate to catch Oregon at home in year one under Willie Taggart. If he and Jim Leavitt can get the defense to even just mediocre by the end of 2018, have mercy on us all.
- I find Washington under Chris Petersen to like reading Dickens - beautiful and boring.
- If Joe Williams comes out of retirement for the Utah game I’m quitting UCLA football forever.
- The best descriptor of Arizona State’s defense in 2016 was that of Spencer Hall likening it to watching football players play with tennis rackets. And yet Kennedy Polamlu’s unit flailed like shuttlecocks against it last year. The most maddening loss of 2016.
- I now know what USC fans felt like watching Brett Hundley wriggle out of danger every single time as I watch Sam Darnold pull Houdini magic to escape sacks.
- Justin Wilcox was a really good hire for Cal, but it feels like overall the Pac-12 lacks a natural pipeline for coaches. The Big Ten has the MAC, the SEC and ACC can go to the Sun Belt, and the Big 12 has a natural scheme fit with any Air Raid coach. What about the Pac-12? I doubt anyone will be hiring Rocky Long or Bryan Harsin any time soon.
- UCLA has to have its best home record in the Jim Mora era (at least 5-1) to give itself a shot this season. UCLA would do extremely well to go 3-3 on the road against Memphis, Stanford, Washington, Arizona, Utah and USC. Early Jim Mora teams earned a reputation of being road warriors, but defending the Rose Bowl is absolutely necessary.
Final prediction? I talked myself into UCLA going 8-4 and trending upward again.
UCLA holds serve at home, its only blemish coming to either Oregon or Colorado, and splits on the road, offsetting a loss at Memphis or Utah with an upset of Stanford or USC.
Overly optimistic? Delusional? Downright dumb? Probably. But no one has any idea what UCLA will be this season, so why not look on the bright side of things and hope for the best?
But enough with the hypotheticals. It’s game week, my friends. Only 125 or so hours until the Bruins and Texas A&M kick off in the Granddaddy of Them All.