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UCLA coach Jim Mora pumping up his Bruins before taking the field against Texas in 2014. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com
HOW I SEE THE BRUINS FARING IN EACH GAME DURING THE 2017 SEASON
Much like their rivals from south of downtown Los Angeles, this predictions piece featuring my alma mater will be done in a different fashion.
Unlike those crosstown rivals, however, not that much is expected of UCLA, stemming from their atrocious four-win campaign of a year ago.
Preseason publications like Athlon and Lindy’s has the Bruins finishing anywhere between second and fourth on the Pac-12 South; I picked them to finish third – see the UCLA football team preview on this site that was done last week (here’s the link): http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/ucla-bruins-football-2017-season-preview/
Though most members of Bruin Nation, including myself, believe that this new Under Armour-clad team will be better than last season’s version, the UCLA community, as a whole, though visions of (at minimum) ten wins, a victory over USC, a Pac-12 championship, a top-four ranking and a berth in the College Football Playoff are always dancing in their heads,
Bruin fans can’t honestly say how things are going to go with 100% certainty.
They could win nine games, as one pundit predicted, but they could also lose nine games with Jim Mora – who I feel will be coaching for his job – updating his resume and accepting a large buyout after the California game on November 24th.
As such, after I took a look at this year’s schedule, which I think is quite tough, here’s how I see things…
DEFINITE, FOR SURE WINS – No matter how bad those Bruins may get, it’s 99.99% guaranteed that they’ll beat these squads with relative ease:
Hawaii, Arizona, Arizona State, California
DEFINITE, FOR SURE LOSSES – No way, no day, no how is UCLA going to beat these teams:
PROBABLE LOSS – The Bruins will be competitive and have a chance, but it’s on the road and this opponent will be a bit too tough at the end:
OK, WHAT ABOUT THE USC GAME?
Like I stated in the Trojans’ predictions article, it’s my personal tradition to wait until two days before the Crosstown Rivalry game to make any speculations or predictions as to whether UCLA can regain the Victory Bell and paint it true blue.
That especially includes predicting the score; check back on November 16th during our Crosstown Rivalry coverage.
As an illustration of the uncertainty that I and many folks in Bruin Nation have regarding this team, there are four games that, though winnable, I honestly consider toss-ups.
In other words, although these games are winnable, I honestly don’t know how they will unfold.
These are the games that I see as making or breaking the Bruins in 2017…
TEXAS A&M, at the Rose Bowl, September 3rd
One thing’s for certain: UCLA will have a lot to prove in this first game in what will be 90-plus degree heat against a good Aggie team from College Station.
My prayers go toward the folks in Houston and the rest of southeast Texas for all the suffering due to Tropical Storm Harvey, by the way; I’m sure there are plenty of A&M students, alumni, and fans from that area, and I hope that their loved ones are all right.
As I’ve been telling people, being that kickoff is at 4:30 p.m., by 8:00 that evening, as far as whether or not those Bruins will have a good season;
I will know.
MEMPHIS, in Memphis, TN, September 16th.
Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a winnable game.
But it’s also UCLA’s first road test against a team that although it’s a mid-major program, they’re not exactly Little Sisters of the Poor as the Tigers are a solid team with a fan base chomping at the bit to get those big, bad Bruins from L.A, the biggest name on their non-conference schedule.
The memory of that 42-35 squeaker in 2014, when Memphis would have tied the score if not for the clock running out on them – I still remember the frustration on their sideline as the clock hit three zeroes – doesn’t help my convictions.
I honestly won’t know how quarterback Josh Rosen and company will respond until they kick things off there.
COLORADO, at the Rose Bowl, September 30th
These Buffaloes from Boulder deserve much credit, going from everybody’s whipping boys to Pac-12 South champs in the six years they’ve been part of the conference.
Yes, I know they have to replace four-year starting quarterback Sefo Liufau and the bulk of their starters on defense; eight to be exact.
But I see them as jelling by the time they come to Pasadena, with a probable 3-1 record going in.
As for UCLA, it will all depend on how they look in their first four games.
I’ll probably have a more definite feel as to if the Bruins can/will win this game after that, as I will in this one:
OREGON, at the Rose Bowl, October 21st
After all the glory that those Ducks enjoyed in recent years, including an appearance in the 2014 National Championship game,
This is the epitome of a rebuilding team that Oregon has; going from nine wins in 2015 to four wins and a loss to Oregon State (of all people!) in 2016 – which got their coach fired – clinches that claim.
Being that this contest is at home, and the Bruins are very motivated to end a skid that hasn’t seen UCLA beat the Ducks in ten years, this is certainly a game that UCLA can win.
I’m not 100% ready to put Oregon in the for-sure “W” column yet, and here’s why…
This is still a quick-strike team that can score points in a hurry, to the tune of 35 points a game, and star running back Royce Freeman is still a Duck.
I’ll have to see how the six games before this one unfold before making any predictions.
Members of The Den – UCLA’s student group dedicated to Bruin athletics – cheering at the Rose Bowl…
All right Bruin Nation, that’s how I see UCLA on the gridiron this season, which commences in roughly 72 hours.
I will be at the Texas A&M game, and one group I’ll be watching like a hawk as far as figuring out how good 2017 will be in Westwood will be…
THE OFFENSIVE LINE.
As those five big guys in front of Rosen go (as well as the catching ability of the wide receivers, can’t forget them!), so will go the Bruin offense.
And so will go the Bruins in general.
As a UCLA alum (class of ’91) and someone who’s been a fan of all things Bruin for roughly four decades, of course I hope the Bruins completely redeem themselves from a horrible 2016.
The best-case scenario? An 8-2 record going into the ‘SC game.
As someone who’s impartial, objective, and realistic in his coverage of UCLA, however, I know that those Bruins could have far less than eight wins by the time they face the Trojans in the Coliseum on November 18th.
BOTTOM LINE: I don’t have a definite say on how UCLA will fare – at least not yet.
This is definitely one season where I will need to see how things unfold, starting this Sunday.
I’m so looking forward to seeing the debut of these new Under Armour uniforms at the Rose Bowl this coming Sunday – I’ll definitely be getting the white/away version of this jersey! Photo courtesy of bruinsnation.com