Category Archives: UCLA
More rambling thoughts and reactions from Week 1’s stacked slate.
It was a pretty strange week in SEC country. Alabama did what it does every year, and asserted its dominance right out of the gate by dominating a name program (beat USC 52-6). One can always hold out hope for the perfect storm of miscues and the Tide loss, but true freshman Jalen Hurts is probably the most talented QB to play at Bama in the Nick Saban era. And he’ll be there for at least the next three years. Yikes. They outgained SC by almost 300 yards, had near-perfect balance on offense, and were dominant on defense.
Outside of that, Georgia and Texas A&M probably tie for the most impressive week 1’s. A&M has a defense for once, but with a questionable offense still likely has a 9-win ceiling at most. Based on what I saw with the Dawgs, they SHOULD be considered the favorites in the SEC East. Here’s hoping they can shore up the rough edges before the big game in Oxford in 17 days.
The rest of the SEC was, quite frankly, trash. Mississippi State literally CLANGA’d the goalpost to lose to South Alabama, 21-20. Florida couldn’t get anything going on offense and beat UMass 24-7. Tennessee should’ve lost to App State. Arkansas should’ve lost to Louisiana Tech.
Among the impressive losers, Ole Miss’ first half against FSU was SCARY good. Second half was typical Ole Miss. Auburn was probably most impressive in forcing an off night from Deshaun Watson and having a couple of chances to win late.
LSU was not an impressive loser. For the first time, I understand the “Fire Les Miles” camp.
The most hilarious things transpired with the remnants of the SEC East. South Carolina and Vandy proved that, while stubborn, are going to have to drag teams into rockfights to compete in-conference this year (they won’t). Mizzou…only gave up 26 to West Virginia? Scoring 11 registers as an improvement over their vs. P5 points per game a year ago. And Kentucky. Oh, Kentucky. The offensive coordinator they fired this offseason put up the final 34 points CONSECUTIVELY in a hilarious 44-35 Southern Miss win.
If Tennessee and Florida don’t get it together, Georgia had freaking better return to Atlanta in December.
Teams I Like Better Than Others, Ranked:
- Alabama– self explanatory.
- Florida State– I was ready to bury them as they fell behind 28-6, Deondre Francois looked completely lost, and the defense looked even more lost. A couple of Chad Kelly mistakes let the Noles back in, and the rest was history. Second-half FSU is the second-best team in the country.
- Ohio State– drubbed Bowling Green 77-10, which is fine. If they can take advantage of Oklahoma’s unwillingness to run the ball on Sept. 17, I’ll call them a playoff lock.
- Houston– not their fault that OU didn’t run the ball.
- Clemson– the defense (probably because Auburn) was stout, and Deshaun Watson won’t be that off again all season.
- Stanford– Pac-12 is hot garbage.
- Ole Miss– yeah, they lost, but the Landsharks were SWARMING and the offense was unstoppable…for a half. If they can put that together consistently (they probably can’t!) they can still be a problem.
- Michigan– (begrudgingly)
- Louisville– Lamar Jackson had 8 first-half TD’s. Sure, the opponent was Charlotte, but…damn.
Cool Things That Happened:
This is the coolest sports thing I’ve ever seen: Nebraska took a delay of game to honor fallen punter Sam Foltz. And Fresno State declined the penalty.
— Tanner Hartman (@t_hartman10) September 4, 2016
Texas and Notre Dame played an amazing game. Shane Buechele and new OC Sterlin Gilbert looked like a possible answer for Texas’ long-running QB problems, and Charlie Strong got carried off the field for the second time in under a year. He doesn’t deserve the criticism he’s gotten for cleaning up Mack Brown’s program, and he may be turning the corner. Or not. You never know with Texas these days.
FCS UPSETS! Virginia’s 37-20 loss to Richmond was too predictable. Washington State lost to Portland State to open last year, and finished 9-4. They followed that template with a loss to Eastern Washington. Northern Iowa ruined Matt Campbell’s debut at Iowa State 25-20 (and makes you wonder if the Big XII expansion rumors can include relegation of ISU and Kansas). EVEN THOUGH KANSAS WON A FOOTBALL GAME, knocking off fellow FCS member Rhode Island.
Back later today as we start looking towards week 2 (which is garbage, by the way).
|1-Sep||7:30||Tennessee (-20.5)||App State (+20.5)||Tennessee (-20.5)|
|1-Sep||8:00||Vanderbilt (-4)||South Carolina (+4)||South Carolina (+4)|
|3-Sep||12:00||Oklahoma (-12)||Houston (+12)||Oklahoma (-12)|
|3-Sep||12:00||Mississippi State (-28)||South Alabama (+28)||South Alabama (+28)|
|3-Sep||12:00||West Virginia (-10)||Missouri (+10)||West Virginia (-10)|
|3-Sep||3:30||Texas A&M (-3)||UCLA (+3)||UCLA (+3)|
|3-Sep||3:30||LSU (-10)||Wisconsin (+10)||LSU (-10)|
|3-Sep||4:00||Arkansas (-26)||Louisiana Tech (+26)||Louisiana Tech (+26)|
|3-Sep||5:30||Georgia (-2.5)||North Carolina (+2.5)||Georgia (-2.5)|
|3-Sep||7:30||Kentucky (-6)||Southern Miss (+6)||Kentucky (-6)|
|3-Sep||7:30||Florida (-36.5)||Umass (+36.5)||Florida (-36.5)|
|3-Sep||8:00||Alabama (-11)||USC (+11)||Alabama (-11)|
|3-Sep||9:00||Clemson (-7)||Auburn (+7)||Clemson (-7)|
|3-Sep||2:00||Washington (-26.5)||Rutgers (+26.5)||Rutgers (+26.5)|
|5-Sep||8:00||Florida State (-4)||Ole Miss (+4)||Florida State (-4)|
Watch the video with some of my comrades as well.
Be sure to subscribe to my real gig podcast (The Investing Podcast) on iTunes to watch me demolish these fools all season long.
That’s all I got/
Tried to go against the grain, shot my credibility in the process. Never trust a Todd Graham.
Last year was supposed to be the year of the South. UCLA had returning talent everywhere but QB, where Josh Rosen came in and played pretty damn well. Injuries to Eddie Vanderdoes, Myles Jack, and many others sank the Bruins. USC had talent, but Steve Sarkisian had a drinking problem. The aforementioned failed pick of mine completely fell apart. Defending champ Arizona came back down to Earth. Though USC ended up winning despite failed expectations, it was Utah who stole the show for much of the season with an opening win over Michigan and a 42-point win in Eugene.
It was a weird year for this division, and it will be weird again. Because its the Pac-12.
6) Colorado. They’ve won 14 games in the past 5 years, and inexplicably have Michigan on their schedule this year. But the Buffs are slowly improving, and will eventually beat someone of note.
More importantly, Boulder is AWESOME. Its literally in the shadow of the Rockies, has a HUGE brewery and bar scene, and is worth a visit if you’ve run out of ideas for college football trips.
5) Utah. Losing all of their offensive production, 4 of their top 5 tacklers, and waste their Pac-12 home games on some of the best teams in the league (USC, Washington, Oregon). I could make an argument for either of the Arizonas, but I like them to trend back upwards.
4) Arizona State. See? Salamo Fiso and Kareem Orr are defensive players I can name, and Demario Richard is a beast at RB. Buuutttttt….they failed me last year, are looking to a redshirt freshman QB, and lose a whole O-line that wasn’t that great anyway.
3) Arizona. Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson are a fun read-option combo for the third year running, they return 8 starters from a D that was…not great, but EXPERIENCE! Call it the “5 conference home games and one of the road ones is Oregon State” phenomenon, as well.
2) USC. That schedule, woof. Alabama and Notre Dame out of conference. Visits to Stanford, Utah (the Pac-12’s ‘where dreams go to die’ location), Washington, and UCLA. Oregon coming to Los Angeles. Oh, and they’re running out a THIRD Pete Carroll tree retread. Clay Helton is a little less flashy than Carroll/Kiffin/Sark, but they could’ve hired literally anyone else on the market.
What USC lacks in management and scheduling, they make up for in talent. The starters as listed by Phil Steele had 16 guys ranked 16th or better at their position for their classes. You’ll see a lot of names below.
1)UCLA. The only team in the division I could justify picking with a combination of talent, schedule, and experience befitting a division champ. They avoid Washington and Oregon, Josh Rosen is the truth, and they don’t have exoduses from any position groups.
Basically, I’m going to be wrong. I know that. That makes the Pac-12 fun. Due to time zones, we don’t get them in the noon timeslot and thus miss out in favor of B1G/ACC C-listers.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- USC at Stanford, Sept. 17: USC isn’t going to beat Alabama, and two September losses would be a rough start for Clay Helton. The underdog has won the last four games, and USC should be the underdog.
- USC at UCLA, Nov. 19: I mean, it should decide the division. And both teams wear their home jerseys, which is always neat.
- UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3: The rare opening-weekend marquee matchup PLAYED ON CAMPUS. Given the chaos of the North (trust me, it’ll be wild and will post Monday), UCLA may represent the league’s best shot at a playoff bid. Not if they can’t beat a middling SEC team on national TV.
- Utah at Arizona St., Nov. 10: Considering the volatility of this division, this Thursday night matchup will probably feature at least one top-1o team controlling its destiny in the division. I just set my calendar to remind myself I said this so I can mock myself.
- Stanford at UCLA, Sept. 24: Catching a trend about Stanford’s September? UCLA’s Pac-12 opener could set the tone, as they have a real shot at going 8-1 at worst if they beat the Cardinal. I should probably flip this one with #1.
So, like I said– USC opens with Alabama and closes with Notre Dame. Utah and Arizona both draw BYU. Arizona State/Texas Tech may well feature 1500 yards of offense. Colorado…uhh…goes to the Big House. Given the 9-game conference schedule, the Pac-12 schedules are no joke.
Players to Watch
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado: Okay, bear with me here. The Buffs’ secondary intrigues me. They only gave up 229 passing yards a game in-conference– and the whole secondary returns. Awuzie stands out because I’ve never seen a corner lead a team in tackles (he did, 84) tackles for loss (8), pass breakups (7), and QB hurries (4). I kinda want to watch Colorado’s defense now, sounds like some fun.
Nick Wilson, RB, Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona: Wilson was a stud as a freshman and hobbled last year, Solomon was a stud as a freshman and a scapegoat for the defense’s struggles last year. They’re not quite Steve Slaton and Pat White, but they will make some noise.
Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Yeah, he’s related to the Panthers guy. Yeah, his numbers weren’t amazing last year, but he anchored a stout run D on Utah’s magic first two months. He’s a true two-gap tackle, and two-gap tackles get PAID.
All of these guys at USC: Buried the lede a little bit, but told you I’d circle back. CBs Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall combined for 17 pass breakups, Marshall had 3 picks as a true freshman, and Jackson returned two punts for touchdowns and had 414 receiving yards. Read that Jackson line again. LB Cameron Smith was the league’s Freshman of the Year. QB Max Browne was the top recruit in his class, and he gets to throw to Juju Smith-Schuster of 1454 yards and 10 TD’s a year ago, and T’s Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler were both All Pac-12 last year. And they’re the only seniors I just listed.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: The whole “#1 pick of NFL Draft a few years out” hype train currently has the loose dirt of Christian Hackenberg’s grave on it, but Rosen is awesome. He put a hot tub in his dorm room and wore a hat with a message towards Donald Trump while playing golf this summer. Even if he flops, he’ll do so in Manziel fashion.
I’ve reached a point in life over the past couple of years where the drive to North Carolina for Thanksgiving has severely inhibited my ability to do the best things done in unison: drink bourbon and watch football.
Leave on Friday? Immediately tick off the family, who feels more time together is warranted. Get stuck in Black Friday chaos traffic in both Charlotte and the Commerce outlets.
Leave on Saturday? Miss out on some great football. Especially with relevant Michigan/Ohio State, scary Georgia/Tech, and a full Rivalry Week slate. Current plan is a 6:30am departure on Saturday.
Leave on Thursday? Out of the question.
Leave on Sunday? Just too damn late. Familial judgment for nonstop guttural yells at the TV for 11 hours on Saturday.
For the rest of you single people who live more than three hours away from your favorite viewing spot, how do you pull it off? Inquiring minds need to know.
The NFL Games Are Over, And Usually Boring Anyway: THURSDAY RUCKUS
Texas Tech at Texas, 7:30, FS1: It’s not Texas/A&M, but the storylines are still fun. Can Texas score enough points to keep up with Tech? Hell naw. Is Charlie Strong going to bolt for Miami? He certainly should. Is this game timed perfectly if you, like me, do the Thanksgiving late lunch? Damn straight.
Friday: Like Saturday, but with Saturday Still to Come
Send the ladies to the mall. There’s more than enough entertainment available. I have to subset a Friday now.
#16 Navy at #19 Houston, ABC: Likely determines which New Years’ Six bowl you don’t watch because of the mid-major involved. Keenan Reynolds is a wizard at the triple option (like, Tech wins 4 more games with him wizard) and Tom Herman is (insert one of 13 vacant FBS jobs here’s) next coach. In two weeks if they lose.
Miami at Pitt, ESPN2: The weirdest ‘Rivalry Week’ rivalry of them all, Pitt is pretty good. All three of their losses are to teams currently ranked in the (AP) top 11. And Miami is probably a loss to Cincinnati away from itself being ranked. GOOD, WEIRD, ACC FOOTBALL! CURING YOUR HANGOVERS SINCE…idk. Today?
Mizzou at Arkansas, CBS, 2:30: Remember last year, when we had a significant rooting interest in an emerging Arkansas team, who was coming off of consecutive shutouts of Ole Miss and LSU? I miss those days. I’d rather have Mizzou play SEC East Patsy in Atlanta than damn Florida. *sigh*
#5 Iowa at Nebraska, ABC, 3:30: Go Huskers. I may watch B1G football on purpose. Dream scenario: Nebraska wins, Iowa beats Michigan State in the B1G championship, we are spared that conference in the Playoff.
#10 Baylor at #18 TCU, ESPN, 7:30: This is just a damn treat. Both teams may be without their starting (in Baylor’s case, second string as well) QB’s, but both will still hang at least 35 points. SEC fan or not, you don’t appreciate football if you don’t watch this.
P.S.: There are other games of note, but most involve eliminated Pac-12 teams. If you stick to the above, you’ll not be cast off by your family.
Saturday, Where I May Attempt to Leave NC at 6AM
Jon Gruden has nothing on my footballgasm for this day. LEGGO
Obviously, there’s Georgia at Georgia Tech, ESPN2. I want to cut that off after Georgia goes up 35-0 on 4 Tech fumbles in the first 8 minutes of action.
#3 (YES THESE ARE LAST WEEK’S CFP RANKINGS) Ohio State at #12 Michigan (ABC): I mean…Harbaugh vs. Meyer has a TON of appeal. OSU’s offense, which should be patently unstoppable, against Michigan’s defense, which has not dominated like it did early on…this is just going to be an incredible game. Get a two TV setup like the one I plan to walk into just after noon on Saturday.
#1 Clemson at South Carolina, ESPN: Clemson’s last chance to Clemson before they Clemson against UNC.
Virginia Tech at Virginia, ESPNU: Perfect world for UNC fan: UVA wins to preserve Mike London’s job, and in so doing keeps Tech out of a bowl for the first time since like, the 80’s.
Louisville at Kentucky, SECN: Getting the ACC/SEC challenge out of the way early, huh? Kentucky can still meet my ‘they’ll make a bowl’ prediction with a win. Or Bobby Petrino is in attendance, which is fun anyway.
3:30, Also Loaded:
Iron Bowl, CBS: Go Tigers. I said it.
#17 UNC at N.C. State, ABC/ESPN2: Shit, we’re going to crap the bed. (Remembers State’s 7 wins are against the following: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse.) Nope, still not comfortable.
Penn State at #9 Michigan State, ESPN: I don’t know if Christian Hackenburg is good. I tried to watch some of their game against Michigan, and I saw him get sacked twice, throw 4-yard outs on 3rd and 8, and the offense punt from the Michigan 34. James Franklin brought 2015 Vanderbilt offense to 2015 Penn State, and the fact that he coaches two mediocre teams is amazing.
UCLA at #24 USC, ABC/ESPN2: Literally cannot NOT be fun. Jim Mora is going for his fourth straight different USC head coach’s scalp, which is amazing on so many levels.
The Night Slate: On One Hand, Year’s Best Combination. On The Other, Hell on Your ‘Prev CH’ Button:
The three highlights are simple: Bedlam (ABC, 8) pits #7 Oklahoma and #6 Oklahoma State. ESPN gets #14 Florida State at #8 Florida (ESPN, 7:30). Oh, and #4 Notre Dame at #11 Stanford is on FOX at 8 just to sufficiently blow our collective minds with overrated football.
But the undercard may be more intriguing.
Les Miles 200% deserves to keep his job. His record over the last five years trumps Saban’s last five at LSU. He would be a saint even in Athens. Yet, he’s coaching for his job as Texas A&M visits #15 LSU (7:30, SECN). Unreal.
Additionally, there’s the small matter of the Egg Bowl, which I’ve counted on for hilarity for my whole adult life. 7:15, ESPN2, Mississippi State at (randomly) #22 Ole Miss. Thank me later.
The new rankings come out tonight at 7. Georgia likely won’t be a part of them, but who knows with the committee’s ever-changing criteria? Alabama was ranked 4th last week based on the new metric of ‘wins over teams with winning records’, which is absurd when teams buy 2-3 easy wins every September. The ‘eye test’ is subjective, at best. Listening to Jeff Long discuss the rankings on various programs each week is an exercise in futility of understanding what the committee does in their weekly meetings.
But, its what we’ve got, and what it lacks in transparency is more than made up for in intrigue. What storylines should you follow tonight?
All rankings cited, until the predictions at the bottom, are from last week.
The Big XII Cannibalism Race
With the SEC, ACC*, and Pac-12 North races all but salted up, the focus shifts to the crazy Big XII, where all of the games involving its exciting top 4 all take place in November.
*knocks furiously on wood
#14 Oklahoma State served notice that a little luck and an easy schedule weren’t a problem, as they housed #8 TCU in Stillwater, 49-24. They’ll move up, and deservedly so. They still go to Iowa State (which has been a problem before) this week before closing at home with #6 Baylor and #15 Oklahoma.
Gameday will be in Waco this week, as the Bears host the Sooners in an elimination game. Nothing comes easy for them, as they finish on the road against OSU and TCU, then hosting Texas on December 5. With true freshman QB Jaret Stidham at the helm, odds are they drop at least one.
TCU, despite being behind the eight ball with its loss to Oklahoma State, has the ‘easiest’ road. Kansas this week will be a laugher. At Oklahoma and home against to Baylor? not so much. I’d rank them last among the four contenders due to their 0-1 head-to-head record against the rest, and the fact that they’ve been more than fortunate to escape games against middling K-State and Texas Tech.
The odds that the XII has a team finish undefeated are looking extremely slim. Oklahoma is probably the most balanced, OSU is the biggest mystery, and Baylor is still the most explosive. If Oklahoma wins out, I think they’re in. But I expect chaos to keep the league on the outside looking in for the second straight year.
The Looming Notre Dame/Stanford Showdown
#11 Stanford hosts Oregon this week, and you never know quite what’ll happen. But this is an Oregon team that plays ZERO defense, and a Stanford team showing its most competent offense since the days of Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck. After hosting Cal the following week, #5 Notre Dame comes to town.
Notre Dame plays Wake Forest and BC prior to this. One logically assumes they’ll win those.
What that will set up is likely a 4 vs. 5 or 5 vs. 6 game on The Farm on Thanksgiving Saturday. I don’t particularly care for either of these teams, and neither poses a threat to WIN the CFP…but a 12-1 Stanford or 11-1 Notre Dame is likely as deserving of that #4 spot as anyone.
Go Teams From Michigan
#7 Michigan State took its much-anticipated slide on Saturday in Lincoln. They just never performed relative to their rankings, and got by on an incredibly easy schedule. They, along with #17 Michigan, are no longer real contenders, but could play spoiler for #3 Ohio State.
Both will get their shot. State travels to Columbus on Nov. 21, and the Wolverines host the Bucks in their traditional Nov. 28 nooner.
Please, someone, beat Ohio State.
Extreme Long Shots
First and foremost, piggybacking on the B1G words, #9 Iowa is very much a contender if they somehow win out and take the East winner (sigh. Still likely Ohio State.) down in Indianapolis on Championship Weekend. I just don’t think the committee will be able to justify leaving out a 13-0 power five champ, as garbage as their schedule is.
#13 Memphis lost to Navy on Saturday, effectively ending the hopes of a Group of 5 team making a bid. But #25 Houston still lurks with games against both Memphis and Navy, the latter of which will decide who plays in the New Years Six. Could they make a run at the top 4? No, probably not.
And finally, delusional Carolina fan coming in hot. After (unranked last week, WTF?) North Carolina’s 66-31 dismantling of Duke’s acclaimed defense, the Heels should jump comfortably (given the chaos at the bottom of the top 25, which saw #18 Ole Miss, #19 Texas A&M, and #24 Toledo lose) into the back of the top 20. Were they to beat Miami, Virginia Tech, and N.C. State, it would set up a top 10 matchup vs. Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Is there precedent for a bad early season loss and subsequent dominant performance getting you in the playoff?
Yes. Yes there is.
Now watch them lose to Miami with me in attendance this week.
Projecting the Rankings
This will be useless in 4 hours. Oh well.
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Oklahoma State
- Michigan State
- Mississippi State
- Florida State
- North Carolina