October 17, 2012 |

UCLA Isn’t Elite But Can Be Dangerous

I was impressed by the large turnout for UCLA’s victory over Utah Saturday, and also the way the Bruins conquered a tough opponent.

Coach Jim Mora has brought enthusiasm to the Bruins’ football program in his first season as head coach.

Brett Hundley is a big improvement over Bruin quarterbacks of recent seasons. There are more quality athletes on defense than in the recent past. And Jonathan Franklin is an outstanding running back and senior leader.

So, I would like to tell loyal Bruin fans their team is ready to join the list of elite teams in college football.

But the facts don’t support that.

UCLA has a 5-2 record but has lost to two conference opponents who are also short of being elite.

The Bruins have yet to play USC and Stanford but with losses to Oregon State and California they’re unlikely to challenge for the Pac-12 championship.

After a bye this weekend UCLA will play at Arizona State, and that won’t be easy.

So, while I agree UCLA has reason for optimism in the next few years I don’t think the Bruins will qualify for one of the major bowl games this season even though they get a break by not having to play Oregon.

If they could beat either USC or Stanford, that would be the highlight of the season.

But I l;ike the direction of the program. The last two Bruin head coaches, covering a decade, were UCLA guys – Karl Dorrel and Rick Neuheisel. Neither did very well, so going outside was a good decision. Mora, who had been an assistant with the San Diego Chargers, is the son of a one-time top-notch coach and arrived with a no-nonsense approach.

He’s been tough on the players and maybe that’s what they needed.

For sure, a 5-2 record is better than what Bruin fans had gotten used to. The immediate future can be bright. I just think this season is too soon to expect a major breakthrough.

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